Devenir infirmière en France, une histoire atlantique? (1854-1938) By Évelyne Diebolt and Nicole Fouché (Paris, France: Éditions Publibook, Sciences Humaines et Sociales, 2011) (337 pages, euro27.55 paper)
The contours of the professionalization of women in the field of French nursing developed over the period between the Crimean War and the eve of World War II. The international dimensions of this history, written by Évelyne Diebolt and Nicole Fouché, reveal that the history of French nurses is clearly neglected by historians, especially by feminist historians. This is a historiographical gap that both authors try to cover in their book entitled Devenir infirmière en France, une histoire atlantique? [Becoming a Nurse in France: An Atlantic History?].
In this historical synthesis, Deibolt and Fouché collected, summarized, and prioritized all the work that has been done on nursing history in France. In addition, they extend their research to highlight the dynamics of the trilateral relations between Britain, United States, and France. Inspired by the paradigm of the "new Atlantic history" (p. 10), this book on the mobility and movement of female models confirms the importance of issues on both improvement and democratization in the world of French nursing practices in the face of the strong influence of an Anglo- American model. As well, this synthesis on the professionalization movement of French nurses gathers together the very rich research of Diebolt, among others, on women in health action, the Bordeaux Protestant House of Health, and her outstanding biographical dictionary on women activists.1 To this is added the research of the historian Fouché, in particular, on Franco-American relations.
Structuring the book are 11 chapters on transatlantic continuities and sequences that characterize the French professionalization of nursing over almost a century (1854-1938). The first three chapters-"Anticipation of the English Model," "American Nursing in the English School," and "Development of the American Model"-discuss systematically in some 20 pages the birth of the Florence Nightingale model, the first nursing model and the origin of major reform in British society. The pioneer activities of Nightingale in both thought and action form the point of departure in the history of mobility and interactivity of female role models. On the other side of the Atlantic, the influence of Nightingale is tangible because many schools of nursing in the United States were created by replicating the English prototype. Despite a slight time lag, the first generation of American nurses reformers followed this model until World War I, at least in the State of New York. The authors begin their analysis on the French situation in Chapter 4.
The chapters that follow, except for the last one entitled "Shared Feminism," engage the reader in an exciting analysis that showcases the complexity of the French model. …