WOMEN IN MEDICAL CARE

 

Both the North and South played an important role in Civil War medicine.Women who did no have to turn to employment in the factories and mills were often involved in medical care.In 1861 Womenís Central Relief Association set up training programs for nurses in New York City.Thousands of women served as professional and volunteer nurses in army hospitals.Women were thought to have gentler and finer natures than men in caring and so it was assumed that they would make better nurses.It actually went as far as some becoming surgeons such as Mary Walker for the Union army in 1864.The South didnít really feel that the rough physical atmosphere of a military hospital was any place for women. This was even stronger with young, pretty, and unmarried women.In 1861, the Union government appointed Dorothea Dix as superintendent of female nurses.

 

In July 1862, Surgeon General Hammond ordered that at least one-third of the nurses in army general hospitals be women.In the North about 3200 women served as army nurses, which was one-fourth of the total number.The Confederate army was different.In the beginning, many slave women were used as nurses before they started to bring in white women as nurses.The Confederate Congress would officially authorize women nurses in September of 1862.In both the North and South thousands of women began to work for the Sanitary Commission and the Christian Commission.Most were hard working and very dedicated women who would earn respect and praise from soldiers and commanders.While most worked in general hospitals away from the fighting fronts, others worked in the dangerous field hospitals.Clara Barton is one example of an extraordinary woman who resigned from the Patent Office to be a volunteer nurse.She would work her way to the fighting fronts and served in many Union battlefield hospitals.In 1864 Lincoln appointed her to the Superintendent of Union Nurses and she would later be the founder of the American Red Cross.Several women labored at the field hospitals after the Battle of Shiloh and during the fighting close to Richmond in the summer of 1862.In 1863, many Northern women came down to Gettysburg where they helped care for thousands of wounded Confederate soldiers as well as Union soldiers.Several schools were founded in Northern cities during or soon after the war.The Civil War gave important strides to the medical community overall.

 

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††† Dorothea Dix

 

 

 

This page was created by Todd Gentry.