The Diary of Alison Mullineaux
Extract and photograph from the diary of Alison Mullineaux, a Canadian woman who travelled to Europe and served as a nurse's aid in the French Service de Santé. Both the diary extract and the photograph reflect her treatment of Senegalese troops from the French colonial forces.
To read the diary extract, click on the source above.
Alison Mullineaux was a Canadian woman who served as a French-speaking nurse’s aid in the American Red Cross with the French Service de Santé. She was one of hundreds of women from the Dominions who joined British and French professionals and volunteers during the First World War. Her service in France included the nursing of French colonial patients, including Senegalese men. Her diary offers a most revealing account of the day-to-day nursing of black men and how she responded to them and interacted with them. While the photograph of her and her black patients shows a careful space between them, maintaining the prestige of the white woman and avoiding suggestions of racial mixing, her diary describes intimate moments of care. Though her diary indicates that Senegalese troops were kept in a different ward, she had regular contact with them, both physical and emotional, but this is absent from the photograph. This contact included bathing and dressing the eyes of Senegalese troops who had been gassed. Through her nursing, Mullineaux’s prejudices were challenged; rather than ‘savages’, she found the men to be more like ‘children’, still maintaining their racial inferiority but in a less threatening category. Her description of her Senegalese assistant dropping cards down her neck indicates a frisson of sexual tension between the two, blurring the boundaries required to be in place between white nurse and black patient.