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Catalog Archive / Spring 2023

A Bold Profession
African Nurses in Rural Apartheid South Africa

Women in Africa and the Diaspora
Stanlie M. James and Aili Mari Tripp, Founding Editors

“This timely monograph on the history of nursing vocation, tenaciously pursued by women apartheid South Africa's Ciskei area, is a captivating read. One marvels how A Bold Profession, adeptly elucidates transcending intricacies of nursing beyond mere conventional health practice, onto other facets of social history in this region.”
—Luvuyo Wotshela, University of Fort Hare, South Africa

A personal account of critical health care workers

Black nurses have played critical roles in rural South African clinics. Charged with administering valuable and life-saving health care measures despite a lack of equipment and personnel, nurses have had to navigate the intersections of traditional African healing practices, changing gender relations, and increasing educational and economic opportunities for South Africa’s Black middle class.

Leslie Anne Hadfield compellingly demonstrates how between the 1960s and 1980s, women were able to successfully carve out their own professional space and reshape notions of health and healing in the Eastern Cape. Bringing forth the stories of these nurses in their own voices, A Bold Profession is an homage to their dedication to the well-being of their communities. Hadfield sheds light on the struggles of balancing commitment to career and family lives during an oppressive apartheid. The volume fills an important gap for scholars studying the history of women, nursing, and health care in South Africa, illuminating the humanity of health care workers.


Leslie Anne Hadfield is a professor of African history at Brigham Young University. She is the author of Liberation and Development: Black Consciousness Community Programs in South Africa.




“Hadfield's sensitive and respectful study is a reminder that every day, nurses are out on the front line and can be found serving communities in remote rural areas accessed with difficulty. This is an important book for anyone interested in health care and in making sense of how the past continues to shape the present in South Africa.”
—Anne Mager, University of Cape Town

“Offers a clear model for ethical documentation and engagement with individual historical actors and the organizations they are a part of. . . . A Bold Profession is a solid contribution to the history of women and medicine in apartheid-era South Africa.”
International Journal of African Historical Studies

“A much-needed, detailed narrative history of Black nurses in rural South Africa from the middle to late twentieth century. . . . The women who became nurses and worked in the Ciskei during the apartheid years made consequential differences in the lives of their patients and communities. Hadfield’s book adds significant richness to the history of medicine, nursing, and women and gender in South Africa. Rather than heroic tales, the nurses’ personal accounts are deeply human, making their lives that much bolder.”
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Of Related Interest


Claiming Civic Virtue
Gendered Network Memory in the Mara Region, Tanzania
Jan Bender Shetler


Holding the World Together
African Women in Changing Perspective
Edited by Nwando Achebe and Claire C. Robertson

A Bold Profession: Cover showing a painting of a black woman wearing a white head wrap. Behind her is a field a misty hills. Painting by Melissa Tshikamba. Design by TG Design.

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New in Paperback!
May 2023
LC: 2020035411 RT
276 pp. 6 x 9
12 b/w illus., 3 maps, 2 tables

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Paper $27.95 S
ISBN 9780299331245
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Casebound $79.95 S
ISBN 9780299331207
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