The Backwash of War: An Extraordinary American Nurse in World War I (Paperback)

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Banned in multiple countries for its frank depiction of the horrors of war, Ellen N. La Motte's The Backwash of War is one of the most stunning antiwar books ever published.

We are witnessing a phase in the evolution of humanity, a phase called War--and the slow, onward progress stirs up the slime in the shallows, and this is the Backwash of War. It is very ugly.--Ellen N. La Motte

In September 1916, as World War I advanced into a third deadly year, an American woman named Ellen N. La Motte published a collection of stories about her experience as a war nurse. Deemed damaging to morale, The Backwash of War was immediately banned in both England and France and later censored in wartime America. At once deeply unsettling and darkly humorous, this compelling book presents a unique view of the destruction wrought by war to the human body and spirit. Long neglected, it is an astounding book by an extraordinary woman and merits a place among major works of WWI literature.

This volume gathers, for the first time, La Motte's published writing about the First World War. In addition to Backwash, it includes three long-forgotten essays. Annotated for a modern audience, the book features both a comprehensive introduction to La Motte's war-time writing in its historical and literary contexts and the first extended biography of the lost author of this lost classic. Not only did La Motte boldly breach decorum in writing The Backwash of War, but she also forcefully challenged societal norms in other equally remarkable ways, as a debutante turned Johns Hopkins-trained nurse, pathbreaking public health advocate and administrator, suffragette, journalist, writer, lesbian, and self-proclaimed anarchist.

About the Author

Writer Ellen N. La Motte (1873-1961) graduated from the Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1902. During World War I, La Motte volunteered to nurse in Paris and then served in a field hospital at the Belgian front. She was the author of numerous books, including The Tuberculosis Nurse, Peking Dust, and The Opium Monopoly. Cynthia Wachtell is a research associate professor of American studies at Yeshiva University. She is the author of War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781421426716
ISBN-10: 1421426714
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Pages: 264
Language: English