Reasserting work, space and gender
boundaries at the end of the
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
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.
Nursing work and nurses’ space in the Second World War: a gendered construction
Nursing work and nurses’ space
in the SecondWorldWar:
a gendered construction
The SecondWorldWar was a new type of war; it was a global, mobile
and unpredictable war. It was ‘among the most destructive conflicts
in human history’, in which over forty-six million people perished,
often in the most frightening and inhuman conditions.1 The latter
years of the inter-war period witnessed a modernisation of the military technologies that had been used in the First World War. These
developments created tanks, submarines and aeroplanes that could
The nursing sisters of the British Army, having trained in the British
hospital system, would have been well versed in the need to create
and maintain and environment in which healing could take place.
The zones into which they were posted during the SecondWorldWar and the spaces they were given in which to care for their patients
were, however, rarely either favourable to health or to the ‘serenity
and security’ needed for recovery.
In the previous chapter, fundamental nursing skills, so essential to
all nurses, whether in a peacetime
betrayed long-standing beliefs in the responsibility of wives and mothers to subjugate their own health concerns for the welfare of their families. His argument that menopause constituted a dangerous age not only for a wife and mother, but also more importantly for her husband and children, was not unusual, and was often repeated on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the context of widespread concerns about rising levels of divorce and the breakdown of conventional social values before and after the SecondWorldWar, it
Nursing and medical records in the Imperial War in Ethiopia (1935–36)
Anna La Torre, Giancarlo Celeri Bellotti, and Cecilia Sironi
crowds: ‘The Italian people have created the Empire with their blood’,
he professed; and ‘That commits you in front of God and in front of
men for life and death.’11 Such speeches have been considered by historians as a prelude to the SecondWorld War.
The organisation of Army healthcare during the campaign,
The main official documents relating to health in the Italian Empire are
L’importanza dell’organizzazione sanitaria nella Guerra d’Etiopia (The
A sample of Italian Fascist colonialism
importance of health organisation during the Ethiopian
loss in the medical sphere.
The telephone as audiometer
A way of using objective technology to define and diagnose deafness was sought out long before the field of audiology professionalised after the SecondWorldWar. In this section, I outline the longer history of using technology to diagnose deafness through discussion of the beginnings of otology, before elucidating how the audiometer was eventually embraced as a trusted instrument to secure levels of hearing loss for compensation in numerical terms in the industrial/military context.
’s terms: ‘Standardization thus assumed not just scientific or medical but also economic and political significance.’ 53
In Chapter 5 I make the argument that the MRC’s focus on medical statistics impeded recognition of the risk of coal-dust to miners’ lungs. Yet ironically, the MRC’s focus on medical statistics in the twentieth century overwhelmingly aligned with its increased recognition of the social determinants of health. For instance, after the SecondWorldWar the industrial health research board of the MRC sponsored a wide-scale survey on the occupation
categorisation of deafness that the telephone enabled.
This chapter has three main sections. 5 In the section below on ‘The deafened’, I explain the ways in which the First World War improved the technology available for use in telephony, while simultaneously creating the conditions of mass deafening that made such technology necessary. Before the First World War, noise-induced hearing loss was mainly a problem for the marginalised working class, but by the eve of the SecondWorldWar, hearing loss was regarded as a serious national health concern. This transition was
Post-SecondWorldWar Britain ’, Medical History , 52 ( 2008 ), 493 – 510 .
130 D’Arcy Hart, ‘Chronic Pulmonary Disease’, p. 462; MRC Special Report 243, TNA, FD 41243, Introduction, p. v, which states that the medical survey was undertaken by Hart and Aslett with contributions from Hicks and Yates and the pathological report was made by T. H. Belt with assistance from A. A. Ferris.
131 D’Arcy Hart, ‘Chronic Pulmonary Disease’, p. 462.
132 MRC Special Report 243, TNA, FD 41243, Preface.
133 See ibid., Medical Survey, p. 35 and Preface, p. vii.