Women in War

A selection of documentary imagery and art works from the Australian War Memorial collection.

By Australian War Memorial

Australian War Memorial

Grey tropical working dress : Staff Nurse V Bullwinkel, 2/13 Australian General Hospital (1941) by Pioneer Uniform ServiceAustralian War Memorial

This uniform was worn by Vivian Bullwinkel when she survived being shot by Japanese soldiers at Banka Island after the sinking of the Vyner Brooke in 1942.

The papers of Sister Agnes Betty Jeffrey (1942-1945)Australian War Memorial

Australian army nurse Sister Betty Jeffrey survived the sinking of the Vyner Brooke on 12 February 1942 only to become a Japanese prisoner of war. Jeffrey recorded her experiences in various camps, including Palembang on Sumatra, in notebooks and on scraps of paper.

Among Jeffrey’s papers is a sketch that depicts waving hands and barbed wire. It was drawn in front of House Two at Palembang, the only place from where women could see their relatives in the men’s camp. The women would wave to the men in the distance each morning and evening.

Sister Margaret Ahern, army nurse, Barrie Gillman, 1967, From the collection of: Australian War Memorial
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Ahern was one of the first army nurses to go to Vietnam, serving with the 8th Field Ambulance at Vung Tau during 1967–68. As part of a public relations exercise undertaken a month after she arrived in Vietnam in May 1967, Ahern and her fellow nurses distributed gifts to children at an orphanage in the village of Hoa Long.

Captain Rachel Leal of 1st Intelligence Battalion (2003) by Stephen DupontAustralian War Memorial

Here Captain Rachel Leal, 1st Intelligence Battalion, visits villagers of north Malaita on 5 November 2003. This area had suffered from the activities of the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF), one of several violent militant groups. As part of the arms amnesty organised by RAMSI during August 2003, the MEF agreed to surrender its weapons.

Changing roles for women (1939)Australian War Memorial

This photograph of munitions workers pressing .303 cartridge cases is one of countless images that document the changing role of Australian women during the Second World War

A man, Hilda Rix Nicholas, 1921, From the collection of: Australian War Memorial
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Expatriate Australian artist Hilda Rix Nicholas (1884–1961) experienced the tragedy of war at first hand; her husband, Major George Matson Nicholas DSO, was killed in action while commanding the 24th Battalion at Fleurs, France, just five weeks after they were married on 7 October 1916. Her mother and sister also died during the war, from enteric fever, and the grief she experienced at the deaths of her husband and family members is expressed in her work.

Credits: Story

Curator: Ally Roche, Assistant Curator of Photographs Film and Sound

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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