Women at the Front

Women at the Front

Hospital Workers in Civil War America

Book - 2004
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As many as 20,000 women worked in Union and Confederate hospitals during America's bloodiest war. Black and white, and from various social classes, these women served as nurses, administrators, matrons, seamstresses, cooks, laundresses, and custodial workers. Jane E. Schultz provides the first full history of these female relief workers, showing how the domestic and military arenas merged in Civil War America, blurring the line between homefront and battlefront.

Schultz uses government records, private manuscripts, and published sources by and about women hospital workers, some of whom are familiar--such as Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, Louisa May Alcott, and Sojourner Truth--but most of whom are not well-known. Examining the lives and legacies of these women, Schultz considers who they were, how they became involved in wartime hospital work, how they adjusted to it, and how they challenged it. She demonstrates that class, race, and gender roles linked female workers with soldiers, both black and white, but became sites of conflict between the women and doctors and even among themselves.

Schultz also explores the women's postwar lives--their professional and domestic choices, their pursuit of pensions, and their memorials to the war in published narratives. Surprisingly few parlayed their war experience into postwar medical work, and their extremely varied postwar experiences, Schultz argues, defy any simple narrative of pre-professionalism, triumphalism, or conciliation.

Publisher: Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c2004
Characteristics: xiv, 360 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
ISBN: 080782867X (cloth : alk. paper)
Call Number: 973.776082 SCHULTZ

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Apr 14, 2014

This book talks about women hospital workers (nurses and others, who often ended up doing nursing work but didn't receive credit for it) during the Civil War, and then their post-war lives (what jobs they went on to do, the fight over pensions, and who wrote memoirs and the policies over that). The earlier parts of the book (where it talked about the actual war) were more interesting to me. As a nurse, I found that there were little tidbits here and there where I went, so that's where that came from (for example the whole nurse v. surgeon conflict has roots in the Civil War). The author spent a lot of time talking about racial and class differences and how they influenced who got what jobs, as well as the workers post-war lives.


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