Hundreds of women volunteered in Spain. They constituted a tiny fraction of the 35,000 international volunteers who flocked to Spain from over fifty countries to support the Republican forces. Many of these women came with or after their husbands and partners. Still, the International Brigades decided on a limited recruitment of foreign female volunteers. With some exceptions, most women who did arrive in Spain served as nurses and translators. While the historiography of the International Brigades is remarkably rich, the history of women volunteers has not been sufficiently researched. Even less scholarly attention has been paid to the enlistment of Jewish women, despite their relative prominence.
This chapter discusses the stories of four female volunteers who left Palestine on their way to the Iberian Peninsula. The life trajectories of Dora Levin (née Birnbach), Haya and Ruth Meites, and Yael Gerson illustrate international women’s participation in the Spanish fratricide and its limits. Using documents from family archives, this chapter sheds new light on Jewish volunteers from Palestine. By being present and bearing witness to struggles for social justice on both sides of the Mediterranean, in Palestine and in Spain, the experiences of these women call us to rethink the diverse motives for volunteering in foreign civil wars.