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Last updated:14 June 2018

Object of the Month

Every month someone from the Library chooses an interesting object, book or document from the Library collection, which is displayed in the hall of the Library.

June 2018 - Spanish Civil War photograph – Mary Slater

The Library has received money from Salford University’s Advantage Fund to undertake a pilot digitisation project involving our unique Spanish Civil War materials – posters, photographs, letters etc.  Students from the University are helping to digitise and interpret this material.  Our Object of the Month is a photo from May 1937 which has just been digitised in superb quality.  It shows nurses and a Spanish doctor on the Aragon Front.  Lancashire nurse Mary Slater is front row 2nd left.

Nurses and doctor, Aragon Front, 1937

Saturday 16 June 2018 in Preston, Lancashire sees the unveiling of a plaque to Mary Slater in the city’s Peace Garden.  The question may be asked - who was this person, to warrant such a plaque?

The 1930s saw the rise of fascism in Europe and when the Spanish Civil War broke out Mary, who had trained as a nurse, immediately offered her services to the Republican government via the Spanish Medical Aid Committee.

She arrived in Spain on 29 September 1936 and was deployed to the Aragon Front – her duties were many and varied, and included:

  • Training Spanish women on nursing techniques 
  • Running clinics for local peasants
  • Nursing wounded soldiers
  • Preparing field hospitals.

A perusal of her biography file at the Library reveals that she was well travelled, being stationed in Granada and Benicasim.  (The Advantage Fund project has digitised various travel documents relating to Mary, including safe conduct passes and a letter to her from the Foreign Office in 1940 requesting repayment of the cost of repatriating her from Spain).  Benicasim was one of the main convalescent bases/hospitals for members of the International Brigades.

Mary served from September 1936 to August 1938 and during that period she had only one period of home leave - which she devoted to raising money for Spanish Medical Aid.

After the International Brigade demobilisation in 1938 she was included in a group of Brigaders touring the UK to raise money for Spanish Medical Aid.  Following this UK tour she applied for her post back and was promptly charged £5 for leaving her post without serving a period of notice.

Mary Elizabeth Slater was indeed a woman of immense skill, energy and anti-fascist views, and Preston and South Ribble Trade Union Council are proud to sponsor the plaque.

Terry Bayes, volunteer

Do join us on Wednesday 4 July at 2pm for the finale event to celebrate this project which – thanks to student involvement - will open up the Library’s unique Spanish Civil War collection to a vastly wider audience.