Is Dorothy really the only one?

So in class, we mentioned that Dorothy Lawrence is the only woman proven to have participated on the front lines in WWI. As dubious as I am, I couldn’t believe it. So, I did some of my own research and found out about a couple more women who (may or may not have-I don’t have much proof) enlisted.

  1. Flora Sandes (1876-1956)

    Flora Sandes in uniform

    Sandes began as a St. John’s Ambulance volunteer and upon traveling to Serbia to provide aid, joined several different Serbian ambulance volunteers. During the retreat of Serbian forces through Albania (often referred to as the Great Retreat), all of her fellow ambulance staff were killed or deserted. No longer useful as one person, General Miloš Vasić enlisted Sandes as a private in the Serbian 3rd Army and she quickly advanced to Corporal and finally, Sergeant major. During her service, she received the highest decoration of the Serbian Military, the Order of the Karađorđe’s Star. In 1916, Sandes published an autobiography about her time in the war and titled it: An English Woman-Sergeant in the Serbian Army.   

  2. Maria Bochkarevka (1889-1920)

Maria Bochkareva and the Women’s Battalion of Death

In order to escape an abusive family and husband, Maria Bochkarevka wrote to Czar Nicholas II and petitioned the Siberian law disallowing women from service. The Czar granted her request to serve and Bochkarevka was sent to the front in 1915. In 1917, Bochkarevka began the Women’s Battalion of Death, an “an all-female combat unit designed to shame the male soldiers of the Russian Army into fighting harder.” In the summer offensive of the same year, the Women’s Battalion of Death went into battle and penetrated three trench lines. Later in life, she met a Russian journalist in New York and together the pair wrote her autobiography.

Link to a brief overview of Bochkarevka and Sandes

Link to a NY Times article about Bochkarevka

A really cool video about Bochkarevka done by the same channel we’ve been watching all semester:


A video about Flora Sandes:


174 thoughts on “Is Dorothy really the only one?

  1. Ugh I love this. Regardless, this just shows the drive and determination of women. Like we think of women during this time as working at home and what not, but this shows the drive of trying to be more involved in the war and not just via the homefront.

  2. I’m so glad you brought in these other examples of strong and courageous woman! It. From Dorothy’s experience, to the individuals you brought up, it really goes to show the commonly untold stories of WW1. Our educational system often filters material to fit it’s plans and beliefs, and as a result, the full impact that woman played and their experience in war time is often lost. I was glad to complete this reading and was fascinated by your post because both involve material that I feel should be covered more, but unfortunately often are not.

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