Economics and Labor
Immigration, Labor, and Activism
Among the social and political issues presented in nurse romance novels were fictionalized interpretations of real immigration and labor debates. Though Disaster Nurse, is filled with dated and biased views on immigration and welfare, the nurse characters nonetheless do question their inherited perspectives as they engage one another in debates about them. Likewise, Border Nurse carefully describes the numerous perspectives related to farm worker organizing, creating a a fictionalized version of the real California Farm Worker's movement of the 1960s. In fact, Dowdell described the modelled the real sides of the Farm Workers movement, and the characters are seen questioning and debating these perspectives a great deal. Interestingly, despite the fact that these female nurse characters understand labor activism so throughly, they never manage to apply their understanding to their own work situations. The political message of labor supersedes feminism in Border Nurse, even though nurses at this point in history were beginning to organize as well.
Many nurse romance novels take up social ambition and upward mobility as secondary themes. Through her work, the nurse-protagonist interacts with people from different socio-economic classes: she charitably nurses those less fortunate than herself or gains access to society's elite through her work or dating life. Often, she must decide between marrying a wealthy or middle-class man. Notably, she never dates a man of low economic standing. Though socio-economic class is introduced, differences between them are minimized. In the romance fantasy world, class is reduced to a matter of entry to country clubs and an appreciation for high culture, while the realities of poverty are rarely addressed.
While many nurse romance novels took readers on a tour through country clubs and high society others taught a wealthy, socialite protagonist the virtues of hard work and serving others. What message does this send to readers about wealth and work?
Critical Thinking Prompts
What biases or persepctives are revealed about socio-economic class in these narratives?
Rarely does the protagonist exercise her option for upward mobility through marriage. What message does that send to readers about love, security, integrity, and social pressures?
In Border Nurse, labor issues are addressed passionately but race and ethnicity are addressed paternalistically. How might this inform conversations about labor organizing today?