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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Research & Inquiry May 11, 2021

Sisters in Arms

Photograph by Amanda Suanne

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig’s latest work of historical fiction tells the incredible story of the Smith College Relief Unit, whose members risked their lives to provide humanitarian aid to villagers in and around Grécourt, France, during World War I.

Willig researched the book using materials from Smith College Special Collections. Here’s an excerpt:

Band of Sisters book coverEmmie stared down, folding and refolding her hands in her lap. She couldn’t seem to figure out what to do with her thumbs, of which she suddenly had ten. “They say you don’t believe in women in the war zone. The lot of you, I mean. Not you personally.”

Captain DeWitt waited a moment before speaking; she could feel him weighing his response. “As a rule, yes. If we have to rally around and protect you, we lose valuable time and resources.”

Which was just what Kate had been saying. Emmie looked at him with alarm. “But we don’t need you to rally around and protect us. We’re not those sort of women. Really, we’re not.”

Captain DeWitt raised an eyebrow. “What sort of women are you?”

“Smith women,” said Emmie firmly. When that didn’t seem to make the desired impression, she translated for him, “We’re rather like Oxford women, I suppose, only without the accents.”

Lauren Willig
William Morrow, March 2021

This story appears as part of the Smithies Create column in the Spring 2021 issue of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly.