At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, pioneering suffragette doctors and life partners Flora Murray and Louisa Garrett Anderson went to France to establish two small military hospitals.
Despite initial opposition, the War Office was so impressed by their medical and organisational skills that in 1915 they were asked to return to London.
The pair established a 573-bed military hospital in a derelict workhouse on Covent Garden’s Endell Street, staffed entirely by women. The hospital developed new techniques to deal with the horrific mortar and gas injuries suffered by front-line soldiers. Around 26,000 wounded men were treated there.
However, once the war was over, the hospital was closed. Flora, Louise and their female staff were again relegated to the sidelines of the medical profession.
The story of Endell Street shines a light on the horrors and thrills of wartime London, and the brilliance and bravery of a pioneering group of women.
Wendy Moore is a freelance journalist and author of four non-fiction books on medical and social history. Her second book, ‘Wedlock’, was a Channel 4 TV Book Club choice and a ‘Sunday Times’ number-one bestseller. ‘Endell Street’ was BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’ in June 2020.
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