In this interview, historian and therapist Denise Poynter talks to Daisy and Amelie about her search for elusive records about women who suffered from trauma and shellshock in World War One.
Denise’s work shines a light on women’s experiences of war trauma, long ignored by historians until fairly recently. Denise argues that women working near the front as nurses and VADs showed the same symptoms as men when it came to shellshock and trauma. Her discovery in the archives of a doctor’s note reading: “the report on her transfer was shell shock”, became the title of her thesis into the subject.
With VE Day being commemorated today, we thought it would be a good day to launch our online project about women living through the First World War. Women’s mental health was affected in both world wars, but little has been written about this.
Make (Good) Trouble CIC, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, is working on We Are Poppy, a project exploring the mental health and wellbeing of women during the First World War as well as the perception of mental health in society at the time. We are working with a group of students from Hove Park School but since lockdown, we have had to move the project online. This means that we can invite everyone to get involved!
If you would like to follow the project, learning about the First World War and women’s role in it, we have created some online resources and tasks for you to follow. We’ll be adding to it each week with things to read, watch and listen to as well as creative and research tasks.
Our focus is on interpreting the story of what happened to women during the First World War, about how the War affected their mental health (a story that hasn’t really been told), and to explore what that might mean to young people today. We want to find links between then and now. In this time of Covid-19 and lockdown, and of people volunteering to help those in need, there are also parallels to be explored.
There has been a huge focus on men and shell-shock in World War One but little information available about the effect on women’s mental health during that time. Our project aims to uncover the lives of women affected and create new narratives which will look at how mental health was perceived then, in comparison with today.
If you’d like to be part of this project, explore each section of this website where you’ll find information and creative tasks.