Frances Patai Oral Histories on Women Medical Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War
Language of Materials
Frances Patai was an educator, writer, historian and feminist activist. Born in New York in 1930, she earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at the City College of New York in the 1950s and taught English and Communication courses throughout the City University of New York (CUNY) system. Patai was deeply concerned with human rights issues, in particular the rights and status of women, and in the last decade of her life she devoted her efforts to researching and writing a book on U.S. women medical personnel who volunteered during the Spanish Civil War. The oral histories that make up this collection are part of her extensive research material. The Frances Patai Oral Histories on Women Medical Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War consist of interviews with volunteers from the Spanish Civil War, primarily the women who served as nurses.
Frances Patai was born on New York City's Lower East Side in 1930. As a teenager, she performed in Jewish resorts in the Catskills as an actress and dancer. In her twenties she attended classes at the City College of New York, earning her bachelor's degree in 1955 and her MA in 1957. Beginning in the 1970s she served as an English and Communications instructor at various institutions in the City University of New York (CUNY) system, including long-term appointments at John Jay College and the Borough of Manhattan Community Colleges.
Throughout her career Patai was concerned with the rights and status of women, addressing in a series of essays and articles issues related to rape, pornography, and abuse. During the 1980s she worked with the feminist organization Woman against Pornography, serving as spokesperson and organizing their annual WAP Awards, an event that promoted the non-sexist representation of women in advertising. In later life Patai turned her attention to the anti-fascist movements of the 1930s, and began to investigate the history of American volunteers who joined the Republican forces to fight against Franco's army during the Spanish Civil War. Patai focused her attention on the participation of American women volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, devoting her efforts to researching and writing a book on the contributions of nurses. Through her friendship with Fredericka Martin -- a nurse with the Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy who collected extensive biographical material on her former colleagues -- Patai gained access to unique primary materials, and to the surviving nurses themselves. She conducted these interviews over several years, as part of her research project. Patai died in 1998 before she could bring her project to fruition. She was 67 years old.
Each recording has been assigned a unique item number (e.g., ALBA A 131-001), and the collection is arranged in alphabetical order by last name of the interviewee. (Women's maiden names, or names used during service in Spain, are listed first -- followed by names used later in life.)
Scope and Content Note
The Frances Patai Oral Histories on Women Medical Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War consist of 36 audiocassettes, which were separated from the Francis Patai Papers (ALBA 131). The interviews were conducted by Patai in the period 1985 to 1992, in the course of research for her book project on U.S. women medical personnel who vounteered during the Spanish Civil War. Most are with the women who volunteered as nurses, but also included are interviews with Abraham Lincoln Brigade veterans Moe Fishman and Steve Nelson, and with Marion Wachtel, widow of ALB volunteer Robert Merriman. Drafts of Patai's planned book, and her article "Heroines of the Good Fight: Testimonies of U.S. Volunteer Nurses in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939" (Nursing History Review, 3 (1995): 79-104), which utilizes the interviews in this collection, can be found in the Patai Papers (ALBA 131). Also included in the collection are tapes of a conference and a veterans' dinner, and a recording of Spanish Civil War songs.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open to researchers.
Conditions Governing Use
Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) were transferred to New York University in November 2000 by the ALBA Board of Governors. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. Copyrights held by original creators of individual items in the collection are expected to pass into the public domain 70 years after the creator's death. For more information, contact email@example.com or 212-998-2630.
Identification of item, date; Frances Patai Oral Histories on Women Medical Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War; ALBA AUDIO 131; box number; folder number or item identifier; Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection came to New York University in January 2001 as part of the original acquisition of Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) collections, formerly housed at Brandeis University. The accession numbers associated with this collection are 2001.209 and 2001.136.
The Frances Patai Oral Histories on Women Medical Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War were donated to Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives by Frances Patai as part of the Frances Patai Papers in 1998. The collection came to New York University in January 2001 as part of the original acquisition of Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives collections, formerly housed at Brandeis University.
Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures
Access CDs for some audiovisual materials in the collection are available by appointment for reading room viewing and listening only. Access to other audiovisual materials in this collection is available through digitized access copies. Researchers may view an item's original container, but the media themselves are not available for playback because of preservation concerns. Materials that have already been digitized are noted in the collection's finding aid and can be requested in our reading room.
About this Guide
Decisions regarding arrangement, description, and physical interventions for this collection prior to 2021 are unknown. In May 2021, cassettes were moved from audio cabinet drawers into cassette boxes. New container numbers were created and cassettes were assigned to the appropriate top containers.