Sisters at War

Sisters at War: Women in Vietnam

None of my friends were travelling. They were all at home cooking mince for their husbands. I was away from it all. 

Claire Jacobson, Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps

Women were recruited for the Vietnam War in a variety of non-combatant professional roles. Most were non-military nurses, welfare and aid workers. A few female doctors also served within surgical teams and non-government agencies, such as Save the Children and the New Zealand Red Cross. Kiwi women were in Vietnam, too, as journalists, administrators, aid providers, entertainers and morale boosters. Others went as wives, with children in tow, supporting their husbands on diplomatic or medical postings.

So-called ‘women’s work’, of whatever kind, was no foil to risk. In this war without a front line carers and peacemakers were as vulnerable as their brothers carrying arms. Even early on, the potential dangers were clear. In August 1964, Natalie England, New Zealand’s diplomatic representative in Saigon, became the first Kiwi casualty of the Viet Cong. She was in the Caravelle Hotel when a bomb exploded, injuring nine people. She was only shaken and bruised, but the incident was a clear sign of the potential dangers to come.[1]


[1] Ian McGibbon, Women in the Vietnam War, Ministry for Culture and Heritage public history seminar, May 2009

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Want to find out more about the efforts of New Zealand women in Vietnam? Click on the images below to access related written, audio, and video content:

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How to cite this page: 'Sisters at War - No Front Line', URL: https://vietnamwar.govt.nz/sisters-war-no-front-line, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 5-Aug-2014