Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country

Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: The World War I Memoir of Margaret Hall

Edited by Margaret R. Higonnet with Susan Solomon

In August 1918, a Massachusetts-born woman named Margaret Hall boarded a transport ship in New York City that would take her across the Atlantic to work with the American Red Cross in France, just then gripped in devastating and seemingly interminable conflict with Germany. The year she spent near the Western Front was eye opening; careful not to let her experience slip away like a strange dream, she captured it in rich detail in a series of letters, journals, and photographs that she would weave into a powerful narrative when she returned stateside. That narrative, a manuscript in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, is now published for the first time.

Modern readers will be transported by this first-person account of a woman’s life in the Great War. In the confident voice of an educated woman, conscious that she is doing significant work at a world historical moment, but also in the personal tone of someone trying to describe a world of loss and trauma to her family and friends, Hall’s memoir captures in real time how the war is changing France—and her.

Hall page spread 1

Hall page spread 2

The book augments Hall’s written story with several dozen of her striking and never-before-published photographs, selected from the almost 300 that she included in the archived typescript. These photographs give dramatic testimony about the movement of troops through a town, the women who worked just behind the front lines, and the landscape left when the war was “over.”

Hall page spread 3

Margaret Higonnet and Susan Solomon open up the text for readers with a suite of supporting materials: an introduction, headnotes on key related topics, a biographical key identifying the people who appear in the text, a geographical key of significant locations, a timeline of relevant World War I events, and glossaries of period and foreign terms.

The Massachusetts Historical Society will publish Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country on July 14, 2014, as part of its centennial commemoration of the beginning of World War I.

256 pages, 83 b&w illustrations

Distributed by the University of Virginia Press.

$35 Paperback (2014) ISBN: 978-1-936520-07-7

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