Women Nurses in the Civil War: Introduction

This is the first in a series of articles about women nurses in the Civil War. Numerous scholarly books and articles have been written about women’s participation as nurses in the American Civil War. These same articles use the term “nurse” and interchange it with the terms “matron, laundress and cook.” In order unravel this tangled web of terms, and to understand what is meant by the term “nurse” in the minds of both men and women of mid-nineteenth century America, it is necessary to expand our focus of the nurse. Who she was, and what was she trying to accomplish?

To do that we will briefly explore societal norms for women, and what the term “nurse” meant to her. That will be the topic of our next article.

Within the topic of societal norms a brief exploration of the influence of religion on women, as well as on men will be explained in our third article.

In turn, the sub-topic to religion, death, and how both the families of the north and the south experienced their family’s deaths as well as their own will briefly be discussed in our fourth article.

Finally, the topic of the women who served as nurses, matrons, laundresses and cooks for the Civil War military will be explored, and we will look at excerpts from some of the women who served as civil war nurses as well as some of the doctors’ view of these nurses.

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