Collaboration and Conflict in International Nursing, 1920-39

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					Collaboration and Conflict in International
Nursing, 1920–39

Susan McGann
Royal College of Nursing of the UK




After the devastation brought about by World War I and the accompanying
collapse of the political order in many countries in Europe, there was a general
desire to create a new and more humane social order. Supranational institu-
tions like the League of Nations, the International Labor Organization, and
the Court of International Justice were set up to encourage international col-
laboration and the sharing of scientific knowledge. The League of Red Cross
Societies was formed to address the problems of refugees, starvation, and dis-
ease in much of Europe, but it needed nurses who were trained in public
health to lead the work. In the a
				
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Description: Lloyd Still and Gill were members of the group of matrons who had founded the College of Nursing in 1916; the college had strong links with the British Red Cross Society (BRCS), because Sir Arthur Stanley, chairman, and Sarah Swift, matron-in-chief, had been the original promoters of the idea of the College of Nursing.3 The priority of the founders of the League of Red Cross Societies was to help the war-devastated countries, and they realized that nurses would be a key factor in carrying out the basic public health work required.4 At the Cannes conference, the nursing delegates identified three difficulties the league would face-general ignorance in many of the affected countries about what an efficient nursing service should be, and a lack of sufficient women of ability and adequate facilities for training nurses in many of the devastated countries.\n However, nursing was not recognized as a suitable subject for university study in Britain, and many of the international students were not academically qualified to take University of London courses.69 Against this background, the debate about appropriate training for public health nurses contributed to the difficulties facing the organizers of the courses, while the continual redefinition of public health nursing itself made the subject a moving target. Baggallay, who had been the first tutor to the international courses and then secretary and director of the FNIF, worked for the British Ministry of Health during the war and with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) just afterward, and was appointed the first chief of the Nursing Division of the World Health Organization.70 Other Old Internationals became presidents of their national nursing association,71 chief nurses in their national Red Cross society,72 or chief nurses in their country; several held executive positions in the ICN and UNRRA,73 and at least one became a member of parliament.74 The league and the international course
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