National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Freyberg Gallery

Freyberg Gallery

Women of Empire 1914-1918

1992.1156.2 Nurses and luggage on the wharf at Alexandria web 300x196 Freyberg Gallery

NZ nurses on the wharf at Alexandria (NAM 1992.1156.2)

Closes 13th November

Women of Empire 1914-1918 draws on the personal experiences of New Zealand and Australian women during World War I. Experiences illustrated by original costumes and accessories from the Dressing Australia Museum of Costume collection. The costumes of an era; of women in uniform, working women, women campaigning against conscription, women fundraising, women in mourning….the Women of Empire.

One such story is that of the outstanding leadership of Matron Hester MacLean.

When war was declared, Hester overcame fierce opposition to having nurses serve overseas – she escorted the first contingent of 50 nurses to Egypt in April 1915, battling to make order of chaos, in the face of difficult, disagreeable and dismissive doctors and army ‘brass’. She reluctantly returned to New Zealand where she was needed to take charge of a military and civilian hospital system starved of staffing. During the 1918 and 1919 influenza epidemics, she worked tirelessly, acting as Chief Medical Officer.

Hester was awarded the Royal Red Cross in 1917 and the Florence Nightingale Medal in 1920. Read her FULL STORY.

The exhibition runs until 13th November and is on display in both the Freyberg and Thornton Galleries.