Defying Male Civilization by Mary Nash

I am reviewing today Defying Male Civilization by Mary Nash – Women in the Spanish Civil War. She doesn’t make any kind of analysis on the Nationalist women. I would have given 5 stars if the book had the subtitle: Republican Women in the Spanish Civil War, but it didn’t. And so, it should have covered both sides, as, obviously, both sides were fighting in the Spanish Civil War.
I think is rather odd that someone who studies a lesser known part of history – women’s contribution – because these women were “invisible”, thus half of the population was ignored, would also ignore half of the women fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

Defying Male Civilization by Mary Nash

Besides this point, I think the book is really interesting and I’m glad I’ve read it. Nash looks at different aspects of women’s lives, from abortion to house chores. She is both talking about the lives of common women and of the lives of women who made it into politics, well known representatives of different political parties at that time. Considering that before 1931 women had no right to vote, it’s impressive that some women made it into the Parliament and government by the end of the decade.

Because it is a short book, under 200 pages (if you ignore the notes, which most people would, unless they are studying the period and want to clarify some issues or look into other sources for research), it can make for a good read. The focus throughout the book is on the women and what they experienced and not very much on the ins and outs of the war, and this is why I would recommend the book to anyone, not just history scholars.

Defying Male Civilization by Mary Nash

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Arden Press
Year it was published: 1995
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): History – European – Spanish Civil War
Pages: 261

About the author: Mary Nash is an Irish historian living in Catalonia. She has specialized in the study of the history of women and feminism in Spain. She is a Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Barcelona.
Website & Social Media Links: –



4 thoughts on “Defying Male Civilization by Mary Nash”

  • I believe my younger daughter would have enjoyed some of these books when she had more time for reading. (working full-time with a toddler and a lengthy commute each day doesn’t leave much time for reading) I think I’ve mentioned before that she focused quite a bit on women’s history in both undergraduate and graduate school.

    • I think she would enjoy this book. While I started by pointing out why I was not pleased with the book, to explain the lower rating, the book was fascinating for many reasons, including how the ones on the left (they are the Republicans, not like in US :)) ) wanted rights, but mainly for men, women were still seen as not important, not tough enough, and their role was to do household chores.

  • Hi Anca,

    I agree that Mary should have perhaps covered the female role on both sides of the Civil War, but perhaps the female role she uncovers is quite generic, so would apply equally to both sides of the conflict?

    Given its shorter length, this is probably one I could fit into my schedule somewhere, as it really is only a lack of physical time which prevents me from reading more non-fiction, except possibly for memoirs which I really don’t enjoy reading.

    It doesn’t sound as though your small niggle about the book didn’t spoil your enjoyment too much and thanks for sharing 🙂

    Yvonne xx

    • Now I’m reading a book about women on the other side of the conflict. Their experience is very different, so I was expecting a comparison. But I’m doing an essay on the topic, so I’m very demanding when it comes to this.
      I would recommend the book just because it’s fascinating to see how different topics were dealt with about 80-90 years ago, and how much of the debate is similar today.

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