Author shortlisted for national award

When Janet Butler's curiosity drew her to investigate a name on a small town memorial, she had no idea the journey would culminate in a book that has garnered national awards. 

The La Trobe University Honorary Research Associate's first book, Kitty's War, was shortlisted this month for the National Biography Award, on the same day it also won the 2014 Hancock Prize.

The accolades come after Dr Butler received the NSW Premier's History Award last year.  

The Hancock Prize, instituted by the Australian History Association, is a $2000 award and citation, while the National Biography Award – which will be announced in early August – offers a $25,000 prize. 

Dr Butler said being shortlisted was in itself a significant achievement. 

'I'm absolutely thrilled to bits,' Dr Butler said.

'I was really honoured to receive the Hancock Prize – it's recognition by your peers, by eminent senior members of your profession, it's very special.

'And the National Biography Prize is a huge deal to me, I've landed amongst elite company and there is a wonderful breadth of subjects.' 

Dr Butler first discovered World War I nurse Kit McNaughton's name on a monument in her home town of Little River (near Geelong) and decided to investigate the story for her PhD. 

The fascinating tale lent itself to a biography.  

'It took me a very long time to get published  - there were a lot of rejections,' Dr Butler said. 

'This all started out very small, I wanted to know what involvement in the First World War meant to Kit, as an individual, and in investigating her war diaries, I uncovered a completely different knowledge of the experience of war.' 

Kit McNaughton grew up in Little River and left her friends and family to join the war effort in Egypt and France. After nursing wounded German soldiers on the Somme, and running the operating theatres at a Clearing Station during Passchendaele, Kit became the first theatre nurse at Queen Mary's Hospital in Kent, where plastic surgery was pioneered after WWI.  

Dr Butler is currently working on her second book, which will be based on the experiences of Australians in the Imperial Camel Corps in WWI.   

Media contact

Leah Humphrys - Media and Communications Officer

T    + 61 3 9479 5353


Image credit: What's that picture