Biographies/Grace Miriam Margulis

Tags: Member of Communist Party Madrid Internal Volunteers of Liberty Nurse Jewish American Medical Bureau Russian Battle for Teruel

Researcher: Joanna Meng, Stuyvesant '24

Grace Miriam Margulis was born August 25, 1910 in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia. In the period between 1880 and 1920, many anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire caused Jewish populations to flee and immigrate to the United States and the State of Israel. Like many other European immigrants, Margulis’ parents passed through Ellis Island in New York, and eventually settled in St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1936, the coup d'etat against the Popular Front-led Republic led to the eruption of civil war in Spain. As the rebels, or the Nationalist forces, allied with fascist dictators like Hitler and Mussolini, many from outside of Spain saw a need to join the Republicans in their fight to uphold democracy. One such organization was the American Medical Bureau, a humanitarian aid institution that provided medical aid to wounded Republicans. The AMB was based in New York City, and many of its members were members of the Communist Party. Margulis likely traveled to New York City after joining the Communist Party. She became a registered nurse in 1931, and worked in her hometown St. Louis. In the latter 1930s, many youth and medical professionals, particularly those of Jewish background, sought to contribute to resistance against rising fascism in Europe.The case of Spain was an instance in which they could do their part, and many, like Margulis, left their homes and their careers to volunteer in Spain. The AMB served with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and sent doctors, nurses, and ambulance drivers to hospitals as well as the front lines in Spain. Grace Miriam Margulis served as a nurse with the AMB and departed from New York City in October, 1937.

Due to non-intervention policies from the United States government, few American volunteers arrived after September, 1937. Margulis was one of the lucky few to arrive afterward, and members of the AMB were able to sail directly to Spain. In Spain, the AMB worked with hospitals and medical centers of the Spanish Military Medical Services(Cuerpo de Sanidad). Members served in Madrid, Valencia, and frontline locations in middle Spain. Margulis largely remained in Madrid, and was a part of the International Volunteers of Liberty (Voluntarios Internacionales de la Libertad). She served from November 1937 to the following August with other medical professionals of the Health Corps and worked primarily in military hospitals. Hospitals that she aided include the American Hospital of Saelices and Villa Paz, the Hospital of Mataro, and the Provincial Hospital of Madrid. During the time Margulis was in Spain, there were many tense battles being fought around Madrid. The Battles of Jarama, Brunete, and Guadalajara had occurred earlier in the year in areas near the capital and the Nationalists’ attempt to siege Madrid, as well as the Republicans’ efforts to resist, remained in a staunch stalemate. The city of Madrid experienced constant bombing, and the medical professionals treated civilians and injured fighters of the war. Margulis served the city of Madrid during the Battle of Teruel in winter 1937, where both sides suffered over a hundred thousand casualties.

The Republicans’ struggle became more apparent in 1938 as supplies ran low and morale lowered. The Nationalists have reached the Mediterranean in an area near Castellon, and Catalonia was cut off from the rest of the Republic. In a final attempt, the International Brigades and the Spanish Republican soldiers launched the Ebro Offensive. Though it was initially successful, the Republicans had difficulty holding down the line, and were ultimately defeated. In the aftermath, Prime Minister Juan Negrin ordered all international volunteers home in the fall of 1938. He had done this in an attempt to go along with non-intervention and desist international aid on all sides toward the Spanish Civil War. This was virtually ineffective on the Nationalist side, as Franco continued working with other fascist dictators. With defeat and the downfall of the Spanish Republic imminent, members of the International Brigade were celebrated in a final parade in the city of Barcelona before they returned to their homes.

Members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade returned to the United States. Margulis returned in the winter of 1938 on the SS President Harding back to New York City. She returned to St. Louis, Missouri and continued to work as a nurse. Back in her hometown, Margulis met and eventually married Harry John Day. Day, a fellow member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigades, was also a member of the Communist Party who sought to combat fascism. He had entered Spain through France and worked as a concrete finisher in the War, serving from February 1937 to July 1938, when he returned aboard the Champlain.

As U.S.-Soviet tensions escalated in the latter 1940s, American communists and many veterans of the Lincoln Brigade faced questioning from the government for their identities. Both Margulis and Day remained on the Scope of Soviet Activity watchlist in the United States due to their communist affiliation. They had three children: Michael Day, Susan Day, and Lois Day. Grace Miriam Margulis took her own life in June, 1950 and rests in Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, University City, St. Louis, Missouri. She is survived by her grandchildren.


“Day, Harry John.” The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, 13 July 2022,
“Grace Miriam Margulis Day (1910-1950) .” Find a Grave,
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“Gómez Ulla Military Hospital.” Annals of Internal Medicine , ACP Journals , 9 May 2021,
“Margulis, Grace Miriam.” SIDBRINT, Universitat De Barcelona,
“Margulis, Grace Miriam.” The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, 6 Oct. 2022,
Medical Bureau & North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy, n.d.