Left Behind: White Rhodesian Women and War in Nancy Partridge’s To Breathe and Wait

Keywords: Rhodesian war; white women; Nancy Partridge; illness; Zimbabwe


The article invites conversation on white Rhodesian women’s experiences of war. White female voices have been conspicuous by their absence from the war discourse and a paucity of fictional narratives entirely dedicated to this experience exists. For these reasons, discourse on the war is predominantly about white men and black people in general. While mainstream accounts of the war gloss over white women’s experiences and cast them as “left behind” from the war, so much was going on in these spaces. Fleeting references to white female experiences do not demonstrate what it meant for most white women to be “left behind” during the war. The article examines Nancy Partridge’s To Breathe and Wait’s depiction of a white woman whose experience of war consists of illness, stories from external sources and intersubjective relations forged with family and women across the racial divide.

Author Biography

Cuthbeth Tagwirei, University of Witwatersrand

Postdoctoral Fellow, Wits Centre for Diversity Studies