Alternative Hierarchies: Class and Conflict between VADs and Nurses in World War One
This research will explore the experiences of the untrained Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse working within an authoritarian and hierarchical system of professional nursing during the First World War.
In order to do this I will focus on the unused letters and postcards written by Dorothy Robinson to her family during her time as a VAD nurse at the 1st Southern General Hospital in Dudley between 1915 and 1919. Like her fellow volunteer nurses Dorothy joined the occupation at a time when trained nurses were striving for recognition of their professional status and she experienced hostility and resentment whilst attempting to acquire the skills and understanding necessary to carry out her duties. Dorothy and many other VAD nurses were from the upper middle class and found themselves in the anomalous position of taking orders from qualified nurses who were their ranking superiors and social inferiors.
This research seeks to explore how these women responded to the unfamiliar position of subordinate in a society where status was based on knowledge and experience rather than social class.