International Nurses to the Rescue: The role and contribution of the nurses of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War

Isabel Anton-Solanas, Ann Wakefield, Christine Hallett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


To describe the life and work of the international nurses of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War and to examine their role in relation to their contribution to Spanish nursing in this period.

This historical study is based primarily on the memoirs of the international nurses who joined the war health services of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. The evidence that was elicited from these sources was compared and contrasted with other contemporary documents in order to compare their perspectives with those of other contemporaries.

The nurses of the International Brigades joined the front line health services as part of the mobile medical and surgical teams that were attached to the fighting units. They lived and worked under extreme conditions, often under fire. Their work while in Spain was not limited to care delivery but also included managerial and educational aspects. The international nurses' observations of Spanish nursing at the time were not always accurate, which might be explained by a lack of contact with qualified Spanish nursing staff due to a shortage of fully qualified nurses.

In the absence of the voices of the Spanish nurses themselves, the written records of the international nurses were invaluable in analyzing Spanish nursing in this period. Their testimonies are, in essence, the international nurses' legacy to the Spanish nurses who stayed behind after the departure of the International Brigadists in 1938.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-114
Number of pages12
JournalJapan Journal of Nursing Science
Issue number2
Early online date28 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


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