INTO THE FIRE: American Women in the Spanish Civil War

A One Hour Documentary
Produced and Directed by Julia Newman

On July 18, 1936, a right-wing military uprising tried to overthrow the new, legally elected, democratic government of Spain. Hitler and Mussolini quickly joined the fight in support of the rebel General Francisco Franco. In response, about 80 American women joined over 2,700 of their countrymen in defiance of their government to volunteer for the Spanish Civil War, the first major battle against fascism. They were part of the 40,000 strong International Brigades who came to Spainís aid from 50 countries around the world.

The American women who served Spainís cause were mostly nurses, with some notable writers and journalists among them. They all survived the war, although about 750 of the men who fought, died there. Labeled ďPremature Anti-fascistsĒ by the FBI upon their return to the U. S., many of them suffered harassment and persecution

Into the Fire focuses on sixteen of these women, telling in their own words, their story of courage and commitment to a just cause. The filmís narrative is made up of the words and writings of Dorothy Parker, Josephine Herbst and Virginia Cowles, as well as the articles of, and letters exchanged by, Martha Gellhorn and Eleanor Roosevelt during the war. Their reports, added to the comments, letters and diaries of the nurses and other hospital workers who were there, describe Spainís struggle against overwhelming odds. The womenís own heartbreak at the refusal of the democracies (the U. S. included) to come to Spainís aid, is powerfully conveyed.

The war ended in a fascist victory on April 1, 1939. General Franco ruled Spain as dictator until his death in 1975. Soon after, democracy was declared by King Juan Carlos, and elections were held.

Sixty years after the start of the war, two of the women were able to return to Spain for a thrilling and gratifying event. In 1996, Spain welcomed back all who had taken part in her fight against fascism, and gave honorary citizenship to those who served with the International Brigades and its medical services.