Being a male nurse in Portugal during Salazar’s dictatorship (1940–70)


Helena da Silva, Université du Havre, 25 rue Philippe Lebon, BP 420, 76057 Le Havre Cedex, France.
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In several western countries, nursing was clearly seen as an occupation for women. With the creation of the first nursing schools, the gendering of the profession was accelerated. Male nurses’ contribution to the development of the profession was limited in comparison with women’s. However, the situation was slightly different in Portugal. This article aims at demonstrating a specific example of the gendering of the nursing profession, by simply copying the western model – considered the most developed – without questioning the consequences or even whether it was adapted to the country that had a different nursing tradition. Because the consequences of this gendering are still felt nowadays, this article opens a reflection on how complex it is to follow a foreign nursing model and on the issues associated with such a copy. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of several historical documents and interviews with several retired nurses contributed to an understanding of how men became nurses and how they worked in Portugal, despite gender discrimination, between 1940 and 1970. With different nursing training and job opportunities, Portuguese male nurses still managed to contribute, even beyond that of female nurses, to the improvement of the nursing profession.