The creation of spaces conducive to healing is a critical aspect of the provision of good nursing care. 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 Second World War 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. Extreme weather conditions, limited water supplies, equipment and electricity combined to hinder all aspects of patient care. The often hostile places in which nurses worked demanded that they develop clinical skills and the ability to improvise and innovate in order create healing spaces for their soldier-patients. However, as the chapter argues it was the highly feminised home-maker work that created these spaces, which the nurses themselves credited to be an essential aspect to the healing process in which they were the critical performers.
From the 1830s, sets of clergy allowed a sober recognition of the economic benefits for individual emigrants to win out over any worries for the spiritual dangers they may have faced. Like Catholic clergy, Presbyterians could therefore identify significant ways in which, despite its losses, their church had profited by emigration. For many Catholic clergymen in Ireland, the much-trumpeted 'spiritual empire' was less the altruistic, divine undertaking of their 'martyr nation' than it was the opportunistic exploitation of circumstance for home benefit: an accidental (spiritual) imperialism. Fears of empty pews or of losing demographic dominance in Ireland, so prevalent among clergy during the Famine, and occasionally during later peaks of emigration, had proved entirely unfounded. In fact, although it was not openly stated very often, mass emigration had greased the wheels of the devotional revolution, helping to increase the Irish church's power and influence both at home and abroad.
The belief that clergymen had the power to influence individual emigration decisions had considerable currency in nineteenth-century Ireland. Radical constitutional and economic reform aside, this influence was long thought to be the best weapon in the anti-emigration armoury. A great deal of practical involvement was expected of Irish clergymen when it came to emigration from their congregations. The image of the grave featured heavily in the clergy's anti-emigration rhetoric, and in poetic laments and Catholic periodical fiction. Clergy were also apt to remind would-be emigrants that the city slums of America and Britain were already clogged with those who had gone before, their own hopeful journeys ending in misery and degradation. Worst of all, as Archbishop John Joseph Lynch of Toronto later claimed for North America, and as a private survey of England contemporaneously revealed, Irish Catholic immigrants, both male and female, tended to be over-represented in the prison population.
Nursing work and nurses’ space in the Second World War: a gendered construction
The introduction contextualises the Second World War and the position of nurses within it. It argues that the developments in weapons’ manufacture and transport technologies created a war in which mass killing and maiming could be achieved across the globe. The injuries and diseases caused by the mobility of troops and modern weaponry demanded a highly responsive medical service close to the action. This introductory chapter therefore provides a frame for the book within the historiography of wartime medical services, women’s participation in war and that of nurses more specifically. Negotiating Nursing uses written and oral testimony to explore the work and experiences of nurses on active service overseas. The introduction examines the nature of the sources and the value of personal testimony to the history of Second World War military nursing.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book examines the impact of emigration on the churches by exploring the consequences and potential consequences of mass population loss for each communion. It explores the theme of religious interpretations of the outflow by addressing a commonly referenced but only rarely scrutinised belief in emigration as a divinely dictated mission to spread Christianity across the globe, and consequent conceptions of an Irish 'spiritual empire'. The book relies for evidence on careful use of literary sources, the accounts of visitors to and travellers in Ireland, clerically authored pamphlets, parliamentary reports and manuscript material from religious archives. It surveys each of the Presbyterian, Anglican and Catholic churches practical religious involvement in the lives of emigrants, and in particular, the systematic provision of clergy by the home churches to emigrant communities.
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.
The chapter examines the changes to the dominion of nursing work on active service overseas. The chapter first explores the extensions to the nursing role, most particularly the care of wounds and burns. This is followed by a discussion of the expansion of nursing duties into those that had hitherto been the domain of medicine. These roles include the commencement and management of blood transfusions, surgical work and anaesthesia. Finally the chapter considers ‘new work’, the most critical of which was the administration and use of penicillin. The constantly shifting requirements of war nursing prevented Army nurses from remaining in a professional comfort zone of accepted roles and regimes. The experience of living with uncertainty may have caused anxieties for some, but the active participation in new treatment modalities suggests that nurses who went to war were keen to move beyond the normal boundaries of nursing practice and many relished the opportunity to do so. The chapter argues that the developments in practice and the increased confidence nursing sisters displayed with this new work altered their working relationships with medical officers from one of deference to one of collegiality, enabling more productive decisions for their soldier-patients’ care.
Military success in war was contingent on men sustaining a determination to fight. Persuading men to continue fighting or returning them to combat after illness or injury depended on maintaining their morale. The use of female nurses in upholding this resolve was integral to the war effort. The chapter explores the value of the presence of women in hospital wards and in social environments on active service overseas. It considers the occasional antipathy of military authorities and male colleagues to the location of female nurses in war zones. However, it is argued through the provision of expert clinical care, domestic acumen and the use of their ‘female-selves’, nurses were able to salvage men in readiness to return to battle. Nursing sisters thus created a space for themselves in frontline duties. However, the chapter argues, this was not without its difficulties. As single, white women in far-flung places, this position situated nurses in a liminal place between the respectable European colonial wife and the ‘biohazardous’ local women. The chapter acknowledges these difficulties, but also demonstrates how the nurses negotiated their way through these contradictions to their advantage and for those in their care.
The book knits together two of the most significant themes in the social and cultural history of modern Ireland - mass emigration and religious change - and aims to provide fresh insight into both. It addresses the churches' responses to emigration, both in theory and in practice. The book also assesses how emigration impacted on the churches both in relation to their status in Ireland, and in terms of their ability to spread their influence abroad. It first deals with the theoretical positions of the clergy of each denomination in relation to emigration and how they changed over the course of the nineteenth century, as the character of emigration itself altered. It then explores the extent of practical clerical involvement in the temporal aspects of emigration. This includes attempts to prevent or limit it, a variety of facilitation services informally offered by parish clergymen, church-backed moves to safeguard emigrant welfare, clerical advice-giving and clerically planned schemes of migration. Irish monks between the fifth and eighth centuries had spread Christianity all over Europe, and should act as an inspiration to the modern cleric. Tied in with this reading of the past, of course, was a very particular view of the present: the perception that emigration represented the enactment of a providential mission to spread the faith.