Guerrilla nursing with the Friends Ambulance Unit, 1946–48

This chapter draws upon a rich collection of untapped private and public papers held in Canada, the USA, and Great Britain. With the promise to “go anywhere, do anything”, British surgical nurse Elizabeth Hughes and American public health nurse Margaret Stanley were cast into unexpected adventures punctuated by danger and unremitting demands to care. As part of ‘Medical Team 19’, they joined Mao Zedong’s Eighth Route Army when the International Peace Hospital evacuated after the fall of Yennan in 1947. They illuminate ‘complex entanglements of nursing as it was imagined and practiced on the liminal frontiers between war and peace’ that have characterised the post-colonial era. This article is attentive to how multi-faceted power relations intersect with faith, gender, race, place and nation to shape nursing imperial exchanges. Their experiences question post-colonialists’ prevailing portrait of Western nurses as cultural imperialists and reinforce the need for a multidisciplinary framework to critically analyse the agency, assimilation and accommodation of both Western nurses and their Chinese colleagues. Recovering their stories suggests there may be more continuity with the major contemporary challenges for collective humanitarian responses to conflict-ridden complex crises than previously acknowledged.

in Colonial caring