Mary Borden (1886 – 1968) was born in Chicago, the daughter of a wealthy silver prospector who died when Mary was twenty, leaving her independently wealthy. She studied Liberal Arts at Vassar College in New York. In 1913 she moved to London and later that year was arrested during a Suffragette demonstration, having smashed a window of the Treasury. When war broke out in 1914 she used her wealth to establish a field hospital for French soldiers on the Somme. Her heroism and dedication won her both the Croix de Guerre and the Légion d’honneur, the only American woman to have held both honours.
During the war she met and had an affair with a young British liaison officer, Louis Spears. The love poems she wrote to him were discovered by her husband, who divorced her. She married Spears in 1918.
Borden went on to become a successful novelist. Her 1929 memoir, The Forbidden Zone, is one of the most compelling accounts of front line service in the war. It included a number of stories and poems written while she was at the Somme, including ‘Unidentified‘, one of the most remarkable poems written by any poet during the war.