Women of the War—Famous Nurses of Union Soldiers

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Women of the WarFamous Nurses of Union Soldiers
Samuel Hollyer
Page 160
Mary A. Livermore. My Story of the War: A Woman's Narrative of Four Years Personal Experiences  Hartford, Connecticut: A.D. Worthington, 1889.
Engraving from Photographs
F 8344 .51
Newberry Library

These portraits, probably based on photographs, show four female leaders in Civil War nursing. Mary Livermore related their stories in her book about her experience as a nurse and member of the U.S. Sanitary Commission.

Jane C. Hoge, a speaker, businesswoman, and fundraiser, served with Mary Livermore as an associate manager of the Northwest Sanitary Commission branch in Chicago. Mary A. Bickerdyke, also known as “Mother Bickerdyke,” worked at hospitals in Cairo, Illinois, aboard hospital ships on the Mississippi River, and at several battlefields. Her strong personality and desire to provide high quality aid to wounded soldiers was highly respected, even by military men.  A doctor she fired later complained to General Sherman, who replied: "Oh, well, then, if it was she, I can't help you. She has more power than I ---she ranks me." Mary J. Safford was a former teacher who served as a nurse at camps, ships, and battlefields. After the war, Safford studied medicine opened her own private practice in Chicago. She later became a professor of women's diseases at the Boston University School of Medicine. Cordelia A.P. Harvey was a teacher and the wife of the Governor of Wisconsin.  She urged President Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton to build hospitals in the North so that wounded Union soldiers could return to the North to recover rather than remain near battlefields. At first they refused because they were afraid that Union soldiers would desert [leave without permission] if they were sent home, but finally they agreed.

1. These portraits are presented around an illustration of an eagle with shield and arrows, elements of the Great Seal of the United States. Why do you think the engraver included those symbols in the image?

2. Mary Livermore published My Story of the War over thirty years after the conflict ended. Why might people have wanted to read such a book at that time? Why do you think Livermore wanted to publish it?

Further reading:
Livermore, Mary Ashton Rice. My Story of the War: A Woman’s Narrative of Four Years Personal Experience as Nurse in the Union army, and in Relief Work at Home, in Hospitals, Camps, and at the Front, During the War of Rebellion. Hartford, Conn: A.D. Worthington, 1889.

Venet, Wendy Hamand. “The Emergence of a Suffragist: Mary Livermore, Civil War Activism, and the Moral Power of Women.” Civil War History 48, no. 2 (2002): 143-164.

Courtesy of the Newberry Library, Chicago