All children learn at school the story of Florence Nightingale - the Lady with the Lamp - who heroically tended the sick during the Crimean War. But she was not the only woman in the Crimea. It is usually assumed that women did not become involved in international conflict until the First World War. But in No Place For Ladies, respected historian Helen Rappaport proves otherwise: numerous women were actively involved in the Crimean in a variety of ways. Four wives would be chosen to accompany each regiment of 100 men, enduring the vermin-ridden troop ships and then left to fend for themselves in the barren Crimean terrain, before combing the battlefields in search of their men. Yet the suffering of the soldiers' wives left behind was more terrible. At home, vast numbers of women - including Queen Victoria herself - knitted socks to cheer the soldiers stranded in freezing Sevastopol. Florence Nightingale had a band of unruly, often hard-drinking orderlies to control. Rejected by Nightingale, maverick black nurse Mary Seacole set up her own dispensary in the Crimea.
And then there were the lady battlefield tourists, watching engagements from a safe distance in between picnics and yacht trips. This rich, colourful and fascinating picture of very different women at war, based on hundreds of rare accounts, is now available in B-format paperback. Helen Rappaport is a historian and author of An Encyclopaedia of Women and Social Reformers and Joseph Stalin: A Biographical Companion. She has presented historical documentaries for Channel 4 and BBC Woman's Hour.