Firing Lines

Three Canadian Women Write the First World War

Reviewed by Kaitlin Vitt

Posted May 8, 2019

Beatrice Nasmyth, Mary MacLeod Moore, and Elizabeth Montizambert reported on the front lines at a time when, according to author Debbie Marshall, “few women were allowed outside the confines of the ‘women’s page.’” In Firing Lines, she shares the inspiring stories of these three Canadian women who worked as journalists during the First World War. The book also provides an insightful look at the gender gap in the workforce — something that remains relevant.

A writer, editor, and playwright, Marshall approaches the Great War in a creative and narratively driven way through the stories of the journalists and their families, as well as through the people the women wrote about. For example, she describes the journalists’ trips to hospitals, such as Montizambert’s 1916 visit with soldiers in Paris who had been attacked with flamethrowers the year before.

“Willing her stomach to stay calm,” Marshall writes, Montizambert looked at the patients and their wounds. Some of their faces were so distorted she couldn’t see their eyes. Montizambert wrote of her experience, “I wished ardently that every pro German in the world could see those sightless eyes that no treatment, alas, will ever restore….”

Much like the journalists whose stories she shares, Marshall gives more than just an overview of the war — rather than strictly reporting facts about the battles, she focuses on the people who were affected by them.

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This article originally appeared in the June-July 2019 issue of Canada’s History.

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