SGS Celebrates Graduate Student Winners of Federal Tri-Council Awards - Delaney Beck

Author: Andrea

Posted on Dec 7, 2022

Category: Money Matters , Student Stories

Profile of: Delaney Beck 

Award Received: SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship 

Awarded for the project: “Some of the sisters have shell shock as well as wounds”: War Trauma in First World War Canadian Nursing Sisters 

Faculty: Arts 

Department: History 

Project supervised by: Dr. Cindy Brown 

Some 2,845 women served as Nursing Sisters with the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) between 1914 and 1918, serving day and night on numerous fronts, giving aid to convoys of wounded soldiers. Bombs and air raids were a common occurrence. Those in the Mediterranean faced harsh conditions from weather, lack of supplies, and illness. Long periods of inaction were followed by intense periods of action. Shell shock was a common affliction for Canadian soldiers; there is evidence to support that Nursing Sisters also suffered from it. My research considers how female Nursing Sisters experienced trauma differently than male soldiers and the differences in treatment and perceptions for women over men, both medically and within society. 

The study of mental health in relation to war is receiving more focus, but there remains a gap when it comes to the study of women’s mental health and war. Focusing on the wartime experiences, diagnoses, and treatment of Nursing Sisters adds to a deeper understanding of this. This project examines medical papers, hospital war diaries, and personal archival material, such as letters and diaries. The recent digitization of soldier and Nursing Sister wartime personnel files through Library and Archives Canada (LAC) enables an in-depth analysis of the psychological impact of war through individual experiences. These files include personal data as well as details about their medical treatment and wartime service. By studying Nursing Sisters, new ideas on gender and societal views from the period are brought forward which can then be used to further study on the male soldier experience of shell shock.