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5 Reasserting work, space and gender boundaries at the end of the Second World War When you come out of the Forces you will have eight weeks’ leave in which to look round and take stock of your position … You have seen much, and you will bring to civilian life a broadened outlook. It may be that during your period of service you concentrated on one special branch of nursing work, while possibly losing touch with developments in other fields. Perhaps you held posts of great responsibility … While you have been away, those at home have had to carry on as best they

in Negotiating nursing
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British Army sisters and soldiers in the Second World War

Negotiating nursing explores how the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (Q.A.s) salvaged men within the sensitive gender negotiations of what should and could constitute nursing work and where that work could occur. The book argues that the Q.A.s, an entirely female force during the Second World War, were essential to recovering men physically, emotionally and spiritually from the battlefield and for the war, despite concerns about their presence on the frontline. The book maps the developments in nurses’ work as the Q.A.s created a legitimate space for themselves in war zones and established nurses’ position as the expert at the bedside. Using a range of personal testimony the book demonstrates how the exigencies of war demanded nurses alter the methods of nursing practice and the professional boundaries in which they had traditionally worked, in order to care for their soldier-patients in the challenging environments of a war zone. Although they may have transformed practice, their position in war was highly gendered and it was gender in the post-war era that prevented their considerable skills from being transferred to the new welfare state, as the women of Britain were returned to the home and hearth. The aftermath of war may therefore have augured professional disappointment for some nursing sisters, yet their contribution to nursing knowledge and practice was, and remains, significant.

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Sociology of Nursing (Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 1978). 11 Penny Summerfield, Reconstructing Women’s Wartime Lives: Discourse 203 Negotiating nursing and Subjectivity in Oral Histories of the Second World War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), 24; Penny Summerfield and Corinna Peniston-­Bird, ‘Women in the firing-­line: The Home Guard and the defence of gender boundaries in Britain in the Second World War’, Women’s History Review 9, 2 (2000): 232. 12 Noakes, Women in the British Army, 127. 13 For a useful and erudite examination of the involvement

in Negotiating nursing
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Nursing work and nurses’ space in the Second World War: a gendered construction

protect their womenfolk.59 Negotiating these sensitive gender boundaries, nurses on active service overseas worked to expand traditional nursing work, developed an autonomy that they had hitherto not known and brokered their place as women in a war zone, ‘the one impregnable male bastion’.60 Personal testimony and the nurses’ war This book uses a range of personal testimony material, including oral history, diaries, letters and memoirs to examine the work of nurses on active service overseas and their place within the Second World War medical services. Although nursing

in Negotiating nursing
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Contextualising colonial and post-colonial nursing

deputising for him when he went on safari or local leave.’28 This was even more the case with 9 Helen Sweet and Sue Hawkins missionary nurses, many of whom founded and ran small rural hospitals and clinics with only occasional medical support through much of the first half of the twentieth century.29 Echoing Fletcher’s argument about the balance between the centre and the peripheries of Empire, Nestel argues that as a result of the thin-spreading of medical staff in the outposts, ‘class and gender boundaries between doctor and nurse became increasingly blurred in the

in Colonial caring

of innovation and ingenuity in order to manipulate the surroundings into habitable places. These skills link nursing judgements to ones that are high in ‘indeterminacy’, skills more usually associated with the critical clinical judgements of medicine,14 and therefore requiring careful negotiation of professional and gender boundaries. In this way, the work of nurses on active service overseas reversed the more usual ideas about men and women’s wartime work. Historians including Summerfield, Juliette Pattinson and Sonya O. Rose explore the feminisation of masculine

in Negotiating nursing
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company of their combatant patients, but were not allowed to be frivolous with them and had to always call them by their surnames.72 It seems as if even on the home front, by the end of the war this had changed in some hospitals.73 As early as the First World War, the use of humour, and especially laughter, was openly supported. Staff and patients saw its importance for crossing class and gender boundaries and therefore dissipating the potential difficulties present in a military hospital.74 There was a general acceptance that it created cohesiveness between patients

in Negotiating nursing

. Shifting work and gender boundaries As nurses extended and expanded their work beyond the ‘normal’ remit of nursing practice,7 the gender and professional boundaries between medicine and nursing blurred. On active service overseas nurses increasingly ‘stood in’ for their medical colleagues as the exigencies of war demanded. One sister, part of the BEF evacuating Marseilles in June 1940, wrote that the colonel of her unit asked her about the medical fitness or otherwise of the patients: ‘He said he could not find the M.O. to ask him. I gave my opinion.’8 Sister Mary

in Negotiating nursing

European.81 However, Javanese social structure was characterised by fluid gender systems and subtle gender boundaries;82 in their eyes, then, there may not even have been typically male or female professions. Two types of nursing could be said to have come into being in the Indies:  on the one hand, there was the female model of nursing (care-giving in the hospitals). This was carried out by both male and female nurses, each nursing patients of their own sex. They were closely supervised and had to carry out the doctor’s instructions. On the other, a male model existed

in Colonial caring
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The gendering of witchcraft

as to prevent ‘leakage’ across the gender boundary. It is important to remember that although demonology feminised male witches, it never made them female . To put it another way, male witches were never reconstructed in such a manner as to make them unrecognisable as males. The feminised male witch has important implications for the way we speak of gender and its construction in early modern Europe. Andrea

in Male witches in early modern Europe