Doves of War: Four Women of Spain

TitleDoves of War: Four Women of Spain
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsPreston, Paul

The last war fought for ideals, the Spanish Civil War tore Spain apart. Much has been written about its effects on the people and country but little about the women involved. But behind the well-documented experiences of Martha Gellhorn and La Pasionaria lie the forgotten stories of the women whose lives proved crucial to the struggle - and to understanding it. In Doves of War, prize-winning historian Paul Preston focusses on the stories of four women whose very different beliefs and experiences help crystallise a fascinating, new vision of the Spanish Civil War.

In the book, as in the war, communist is pitted against fascist. In the red corner we have Margarita Nelken, the revolutionary feminist, writer and politician, desperately trying to prevent her son Santiago from joining the army; and Nan Green, the Communist nurse, who sent her children off to boarding school and went out to fight against fascism with her International Brigader husband George (tragically killed in battle on the last day of the war). In the blue corner there is Mercedes Sanz Bachiller whose entry into politics rapidly followed her miscarriage on hearing of the death of her husband in battle, but whose intense rivalry with Pilar Primo de Rivera led to her major successes being virtually written out of history; and Priscilla Scott-Ellis (Pip) a wealthy English socialite who came out to Spain determined to marry the homosexual Spanish prince she loved so unrequitedly, but her determination to help the fascist war effort led her exchanging a glittering social round of parties with Nazi and Spanish aristocracy to nursing in basic frontline hospitals.

Each story, packed with startling, often poignant details and vivid extracts from diaries, letters and contemporary documents, casts a different light on the war and on the experiences of women in Spain.

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