Mabel St Clair Stobart is one of those women I had in mind when I wrote, ‘What the horses heard’. The exhibition about her in Dorchester Museum has just come to an end. The amazing photos trace her intrepid journey from the tented field hospital she established near the front line and the relentless 250 mile trek through the Albanian mountains to her final escape from Scutari. Already in her mid-fifties, she travelled to Serbia with female doctors and nurses whom she had recruited and trained to help the war effort. Her story is exceptional, not only for the adventures she experienced – in 1914 she had been arrested by the Germans and sentenced to be shot as a spy – but because she was motivated by bettering the lot of women. A supporter of the Suffragette movement, Stobart believed that women should earn the vote by demonstrating that they were as valuable to society as men. She led her mission to Serbia in the face of opposition and yet managed to raise the money for no less than 7 motor-ambulances. Yes, motor ones!
The photographs of Stobart’s adventures are graphic and do not flinch from the horrors of war, featuring the dead and dying, the terribleconditions. Despite everything, she only lost one member of her team who died of typhus.
Having learned what I could I am almost ready if and when the WI ever invite me to talk to them about ‘Remarkable Women of WW1′ as I have gone through the dreaded audition to get on their official Speakers’ List. But now you can see some of the pics, too. The Serbian army made her a Major! by the way, another English woman called Flora Sandes served as a combatant in the Serbian army and was made a Sergeant. And she does get mentioned in’What the horses heard’.
These photos themselves are also remarkable and we couldn’t think who could have carried the huge camera on the retreat through the mountains.