Sunday 4 October 2009

Not All Angels

Why do I get increasingly irritated by hearing women who nursed during the Great War described as 'angels'? I realise that it's been used for decades as a catch-all compliment, but surely there are far better ways of describing this group of women.

Angel - a divine or semi-divine being; a spiritual helper for humankind; a personification of the concept of holiness; a person whose actions and thoughts are consistently virtuous.

But angels don't actually exist, do they? Perhaps that depends on an individual's religous beliefs, but to me, no, they are definitely 'pretend.' But nothing 'pretend' about the women who served as nurses during the Great War. I've done a fair bit of research and looked at the life and work of hundreds of individual women who worked as military nurses and VADs, and can come up with many more suitable ways of describing them than by use of the word 'angel.'
They were hard-working, professional, responsible, strong, fit, frail, delicate, robust, nervous, lazy, sympathetic, workaholic, caring, gentle, indifferent, kindly, polite, thoughtful, hard, highly-trained, compassionate, tactless, altruistic, uncaring, intelligent, artistic, literate, rude, middle-class, working-class, loyal, trustworthy, untrustworthy, popular, unpopular, selfless, selfish, honourable .... a group of normal women.

And definitely not all angels!


  1. Interesting. It may sound unpatriotic, but I also feel the same about the word "hero" applied to (seemingly) anyone who wore or wears a British Army Uniform. They have my admiration for sure, but they certainly weren't (and probably aren't) all heroes.

  2. I totally agree, but you have to whisper when you say it!