Beyond Versailles: Recovering the Voices of Nurses in Post–World War I U.S.-European Relations

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From late 1918 to 1922, the American Red Cross (ARC) enlisted roughly six hundred American nurses and scores of female auxiliary staff to labor in post–World War I continental Europe, Russia, and the Near East, mostly stationed in Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Balkan states, and Siberia. The ARC nurses ran health clinics, made home visits, and opened nurse training schools. Close readings of letters, diaries, official reports, and published articles help recover the place of these women in postwar European history and the history of U.S. foreign relations. Their writings reveal their perceptions about eastern European and Russian politics and culture, their assumptions about the proper U.S. role in the region’s affairs, and their efforts to influence popular U.S. discourse on these topics. This article argues that American nurses and support staff are central—yet neglected—players in the history of U.S.-European affairs. Through its bottom-up approach, it offers a more personal and intimate perspective on the history of U.S. international relations during this time.

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Nursing History Review, v. 24, issue 1, p. 12-40