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Elsie Inglis
Introduction


A most interesting Life of Elsie Inglis, written a short time ago by the Lady Frances Balfour, has had a wide circulation which has proved the appreciation of the public.

This second Life appears at the request of The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge that I should write a short memoir of my sister, to be included in the "Pioneers of Progress" Series which it is publishing. I undertake the duty with joy.

In accordance with the series in which it appears, the Life is a short one, but it has been possible to incorporate in it some fresh material. Not the least interesting is what has been taken from the manuscript of a novel by Dr. Inglis, found amongst her papers some time after her death. It is called The Story of a Modern Woman. It was probably written between the years 1906 and 1914; the outbreak of the war may have prevented its publication. The date given in the first chapter of the story is 1904. Very evidently the book expresses Elsie Inglis's views on life. Quotations have been made from it, as it gives an insight into her own character and experiences.

The endeavour has been made to draw a picture of her as she appeared to those who knew her best. She was certainly a fine character, full of life and movement, ever growing and developing, ever glorying in new adventure. There was no stagnation about Elsie Inglis. Independent, strong, keen (if sometimes impatient), and generous, from her childhood she was ever a great giver.

Alongside all the energy and force in her character there were great depths of tenderness. "Nothing like sitting on the floor for half an hour playing with little children to prepare you for a strenuous bit of work," was one of her sayings.

Not to many women, perhaps, have other women given such a wealth of love as they gave to Elsie Inglis. In innumerable letters received after her death is traceable the idea expressed by one woman: "In all your sorrow, remember, I loved her too."

Those who worked with her point again and again to a characteristic that distinguished her all her life—her complete disregard of the opinion of others about herself personally, while she pursued the course her conscience dictated, and yet she drew to herself the affectionate regard of many who knew her for the first time during the last three years of her life.

What her own countrymen thought of her will be found in the pages of this book, but the touching testimony of a Serb and a Russian may be given here. A Serb orderly expressed his devotion in a way that Dr. Inglis used to recall with a smile: "Missis Doctor, I love you better than my mother, and my wife, and my family. Missis Doctor, I will never leave you."

And a soldier from Russia said of her: "She was loved amongst us as a queen, and respected as a saint."

"In her Life you want the testimony of those who saw her. Dr. Inglis's work before and during the war will find its place in any enduring record; what you want to impress on the minds of the succeeding generation is the quality of the woman of which that work was the final expression."

Something of what that quality was appears, it is hoped, in the pages of this memoir. I am grateful to men and women of varied outlook, who knew her at different periods of her life, for memories which have been drawn upon in this effort to picture Elsie Inglis.

EVA SHAW McLAREN


 


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