Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Dr. Bianca Premo

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Dr. Michael Bustamante

Second Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Dr. Renée Silverman

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dr. Immaculada Colomina Limonero

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member


women's history, Spanish Civil War, exile, transnational, anti-fascism, nomadism

Date of Defense



As witnesses to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and its ensuing streams of exile Americans Muriel Rukeyser and Janet Riesenfeld understood the conflict as symptomatic of larger European and antifascist struggle. Weaving biography, intellectual history, and cultural studies this dissertation reveals how the art and activism of these two North American women in the Spanish Civil War can expose an overlooked element in the antifascist movement and its fate with the rise of Cold War anti-Communism. Their experiences—one a writer and poet, and the other a dancer and screenwriter—with the Spanish conflict and exile informed their lives and creative works. They embodied what theorist Rosi Braidotti calls the "nomadic subject;" that they bore witness to the war and moved across literal and symbolic borders reveals an activism rooted in personal and historical identification with and empathy for the "other." Previous studies centered on US participants focus on men in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, as well as male artists and intellectuals. The addition of these women’s voices not only reveals the gendered dimension to that participation but also a more Atlantic scope: the Spanish Civil War offered these nomadic women a political awakening and a lens into the Popular Front’s promise for breaking down divisions, at home and abroad, including nationalist boundaries, class or religious differences, and traditional gender roles. Yet the growing anti-Communism and international politics of the Cold War reverted this potential, creating a new paradigm and establishing new borders for these women. Through their nomadism, both women broke with the dominant political and gendered Cold War ideologies. Broadening our scope to include women’s anti-fascist activities presents an alternative narrative to the binary between the feminine cult of domesticity and the institutionalized masculine heroism of war, politics, activism, or leftist writings of professional academia. Instead, it reveals these women’s empathy to be at the core of their art, their political activism, and their border-crossing sense of selves as activism.



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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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