'Humanitarian relief, internationalism, and child refugees: The Spanish Civil War and the Global campaign of Esme Odgers'
- Room 107, School of Education (Building R19)
- Social Sciences
Interdisciplinary Research in Histories of Education and Childhood (DOMUS)
With speaker Professor Joy Damousi, ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellow, from the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, The University of Melbourne
In 1937, Esme Odgers, a twenty-seven year old Australian communist travelled to Britain and then to Spain and soon became involved in the Foster Parents Scheme for Children in Spain (PLAN). Odgers ran what became known as children’s ‘colonies’ through PLAN of children evacuated from Madrid to Puigcerda near the French border, and in Caldetas, outside Barcelona.
This paper explores the humanitarian work of Odgers towards an examination of how a study of humanitarians and the war enables new understandings of the nature of the task involved in providing humanitarian relief for Spanish Republican children. The premise of the talk is that the emotional experience of humanitarian workers is not a trivial or irrelevant aspect of the history of humanitarianism. An exploration of this dimension allows for an exploration of emotions that are expected to be repressed by humanitarian workers, where the expression of individual emotions in the broader context of life and death is perceived as an indulgence. Odgers’ detailed and lengthy letters written during the period of the war – hitherto unexamined by historians – offer a unique insight into the material, social and psychological conditions under which humanitarian workers laboured, suggesting that such a vital activity was a multifaceted, unpredictable and varied experience. To integrate the story of those like Odgers also reflects the need to recognize women’s day-to-day experience in the mayhem of war that often takes place out of public view. Further, adopting a detailed and fine-grained study of humanitarian efforts during the civil war can shed light on the impact of these endeavours beyond Europe, extending our understanding of the global history of the Spanish Civil war.