Tag Archives: Civil War

Dorothea Lynde Dix: Mental Illness Reformer

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U.S. Library of Congress DIX, DOROTHEA LYNDE. ...

U.S. Library of Congress DIX, DOROTHEA LYNDE. Retouched photograph. date found on item. Location: Biographical File Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-9797 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mental Illness is still a taboo topic in the United States even though 57.7 million Americans experience a mental health disorder every year. Fewer than one-third of adults and one-half of children receive mental health services in a given year. Though there are strides to make healthcare more accessible to people with mental illness, there was time when they were locked away in jails, chained to walls, sexually assaulted, and starved. For centuries, this was how the mentally ill were taken care of until the 1800’s. There is one person responsible for mental illness reform; her name is Dorothea Lynde Dix.

Dorothea Dix was born in Hampden, Maine on April 4, 1802. She had an unhappy childhood because her mother suffered from depression while her father was an alcoholic priest who traveled a lot, so it was up to Dix to take care of her younger brothers. Her father did manage to teach her how to read and write. When she was 12, she moved to Boston to live with her wealthy grandmother. Her grandmother was strict and punished Dix when Dix donated her new expensive clothes to the poor children on the street. Dix became a teacher at the age of 15, opening a school in her grandmother’s mansion. In her spare time, she wrote books for adolescents. In 1836, Dix stopped teaching due to frequent illness and traveled to Europe with friends. Though she was supposed to be relaxing, she met social reformers investigating asylums and she returned to the Untied States to see how her own state dealt with the mentally ill.

In 1841, Dix volunteered to teach a Sunday School class for women inmates at the East Cambridge jail. At the jail, she saw that prostitutes, mentally ill, and criminals were all housed together in dirty conditions. When she asked why the jail was in a terrible condition, she was told that “the insane do not feel heat or cold.” Dix traveled throughout Massachusetts, documenting how the mentally ill were treated in each town. She saw prisoners being whipped, staved, chained, physically abused, and sexually abused by other inmates and guards. The prisoners were often naked without heat or sanitation. She presented her documentation to the Massachusetts legislation and convinced them to set aside funds for the expansion of a state mental hospital in Worcester. Dix traveled to Rhode Island, New York, and other states repeating her process; she help found 32 mental hospitals, a school for the blind, and numerous training facilities for nurses. When she was done with the United States, she traveled to Europe to help the mentally ill.

She returned to the United States in 1854 to travel to states she had missed, but the Civil War interrupted her goal of mental illness reform. She was appointed the Superintendent of Union Army Nurses, the first woman to serve in such a high capacity in a federally appointed role. President Lincoln asked her to appoint a nurse to take care of his sick son, Tad, who had fallen ill after his brother Willie died. Dix appointed Nurse Rebecca Pomeroy, who provided care to Tad while comforting Lincoln. Dix clashed with army officials and was feared by her female nurses, so she submitted her resignation in August 1865.

After the war, she returned to work as a social reformer until 1881 when the New Jersey State Hospital in Morris Plaines opened. This hospital was the first one created built because of Dix, so she checked herself in due to her poor health. She died on July 17, 1887 at the hospital. Dix never wanted hospitals to be named after her, embarrassed of being praised for her work, but it should be known that it is because of her that people now know that the mentally ill are humans and deserved to be treated as such.

Sources:

Dorothea Lynde Dix

Mental Illness

Dorothea Dix

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Mary Edwards Walker: Medal of Honor

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Photo of Mary Edwards Walker

Photo of Mary Edwards Walker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Medal of Honor in the United States of America’s highest military honor. It was created on December 21st, 1861 in a bill that stated “which shall be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and marines as shall distinguished themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war (Civil War).” The first Medal of Honor was made on March 25, 1863 to Private Jacob Parrott and the last award was February 11, 2013 to Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha. A total of 3,460 people have received the Medal of Honor. Out of these 3,460 only ONE woman has received the medal; her name is Dr. Marry Edwards Walker.

Marry Edwards Walker was born on November 26, 1832, in Oswego, New York. Her parents, Alvah Walker and Vesta Whitcomb Walker, urged their five daughters and a son to aspire to professional careers. After attending school taught by her parents, she taught for two years before deciding to become a doctor. She enrolled in Syracuse Medical College, graduated in two years, and married fellow physician Albert Miller. The couple set up their own medical practice, but because society was not ready to accept a female physician, the practice fell apart and the couple divorced.

Since Walker grew up on a farm, she realized how inconvenient dresses were to work in. She would spend her whole life making a statement in clothing; she was one of the first to hem her skirt below her knees and to replace her petticoats with long trousers. Before the Civil War, she was a contributor to The Sybil: A Review of the Tastes, Errors, and Fashions of Society and Vice-President of National Dress Reform Association.  

After the Civil War broke out, she headed to Washington, D.C. to become a surgeon in the U.S. Army; she was initially denied. She volunteered at a local hospital and took extra classes to enhance her credentials; in she also started a service to help women find their loved ones in hospitals and founded a safe lodging building for women to stay in. In 1863, she headed to Tennessee on her own to provide medical care to the survivors of the Battle of the Chickamauga. Though she was forced to work as a nurse, due to the army’s need for doctors, she became the assistant army surgeon with the rank of lieutenant. She would cross into Confederate Territory to treat diseases until she was captured on April 10, 1864. She was held in Richmond, Virginia because it was believed she was an Union Spy. She was released on August 12 in a prisoner exchange program. Instead of going home, she served as the head of a hospital for female Confederate prisoners in Louisville, Kentucky. The last weeks of the war she spent running a home for orphans in Clarksville, Tennessee. After the war, she was recommended for the Medal of Honor by Generals William Sherman and George Thomas. On November 11, 1865, President Andrew Johnson signed a bill to present her the medal.

After the war ended, she gave lectures about the women’s rights movement: education, marriage, abortion, equal pay for equal work, and military pensions for Civil War nurses. She would receive a military pension, but it was only half of what men were receiving. But due to her wearing male clothing and believing that the constitution did not need an amendment to allow women to vote, that it was already guaranteed in the constitution, she was shunned by women. In 1890, she returned to the family homestead in New York, running the farm and working on women’s rights. In 1917 on a trip to Washington, she fell on the Capitol’s steps and suffered injuries that she would die from two years later at the of 86. That same year, her Medal of Honor was revoked for lack of proper War Department documentation. She died alone at her home. and was buried in a black suit, an American flag draped over her casket.

Mary Edwards Walker spent her life trying to make the world a better place. She became a doctor to help others, but was forced to spend her life fighting for the chance to help others because society was not ready for a female doctor. During the war, risked her life crossing enemy borders to take care of injured soldiers. She also broke the law several times for causing a public disturbance for wearing pants… since pants were easier to work in. Instead of dying with honors, she died alone because society for not ready for a woman. Though she never received the the pensions and admiration from women and men that she deserved in her life time, President Jimmy Carter awarded her the Medal of Honor (again) in 1977. In the past 160 years, she is still the only woman to have that distinctive honor.

Sources:

Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Mary Edwards Walker

 

Louisa May Alcott: Author of Little Women

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English: Headshot of Louisa May Alcott (Novemb...

English: Headshot of Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888), American novelist, at age 20 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a time when the United States was ridiculed by Europe for not having its own literature. Though the United States was still a young country, it was expected to produce literature works. That all began to change in the mid-1800’s when four authors from New England emerged: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, David Thoreau, and Louisa May Alcott. Though Alcott was female, she managed to produce literature that is now considered “classics” and still read in schools today.

Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on November 29, 1832. It is no surprise that Alcott became an author since she grew up knowing Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and David Thoreau. Though she never went to school, her father and famous friends tutored her. Alcott  grew up in a family that believed in equality; her family was part of the Underground Railroad in 1847. Troubled by her family’s poverty at the age of 15, Alcott was determined to get a job to help out. Since there was not many jobs available to women, Alcott worked for low pay as a teacher, seamstress, governess, and a house servant. When she was not working, she was writing. In 1854 at the age of 22, she published her first book Flower Fables. When the Civil War broke out, Alcott worked as a nurse at the Union Hospital at Washington, D.C., after persuading Dorothy Dix to waive the ban on admitting single women. She worked for six weeks before contracting typhoid fever. Her accounts of the hospital were quickly published, giving America a view inside the horrors of war.

When she was 35, her publisher asked her to write a book for girls. Though Alcott thought the the assignment “silly” she needed the money and wrote Little Women in a few weeks. The novel was based on Alcott and her three sisters, with the tomboy sister Jo March based on Louisa. Jo was a tomboy, breaking idealized stereotypes of girls. Finally, a book for girls about real girls existed; but not only girls enjoyed the book since women of all ages, classes, and nationalities could relate to the characters in the book. Alcott’s personal experience with poverty could be shared by the poor and immigrants in America while her experience with family and house work was shared with house wives. Alcott also supported women’s rights and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts in a school board election. In protest, the townsmen withheld their ballots. Though she never married, Alcott took in her niece after her younger sister died from child birth. At the age of 55, Alcott had a stroke and died in Boston on March 6, 1888. It is believed she either had mercury poisoning from being treated with a compound containing mercury after contracting typhoid fever. She never married or raised a family, knowing she would lose her identity by not having the time to write.

Alcott started out writing under the pen name A.M. Barnard because not all of society was not ready to read a novel by a female author. By the time she died, Alcott was the best-selling novelists of the 1800s and she able to support herself. At the age of 15, she had vowed to “be rich, and famous, and happy before I die.” Though she died financially secured and famous, Alcott spent her life working to support her family while making personal sacrifices. She, like her Little Women Jo March, is a woman that majority of women can relate to. Alcott showed that women want to be able to make their own choices on their education, career, and marriage while still keeping their own identity. Alcott proved to the world that even American women can produce great literature; after all, she is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, along with Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau.

Sources:

Louisa May Alcott. biography

Life The Alcotts

Harriet Tubman: Black Moses

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Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery and never dreamed of running away from her family until her owner died, increasing the possibility of her being sold. After running away to the free state of Pennsylvania, Tubman realized she could not live a life of freedom while her family and friends were still slaves. Tubman made it her mission to lead slaves to freedom until the Civil War erupted. During the war, she helped the Union solders navigate the Southern States, becoming the first woman to lead an armed expedition during war . Even after slaves became free, Tubman continued to help others until she became too ill to do so.

Araminta Harriet Ross was born around 1822 in Maryland. Like many other slaves, Harriet was a victim of physical violence. When Tubman was a teen running errands at the market, she encountered a slave who had left the fields without permission. When the slave’s overseer demanded Harriet help him restrain the slave, she refused; the overseer then threw a two-pound weight that struck her in the head. Harriet would have severe headaches and seizures for the rest of her life. Years later,  Harriet married a free black man named John Tubman and changed her name to Harriet Tubman. Though her husband was saving up to buy her freedom, Harriet’s owner died and she feared she would be sold and be separated from her family due to her frequent illnesses. Tubman escaped  in 1849 with her two brothers, but her brothers turned back after seeing their reward notice in the newspaper.Tubman had to continue on her own to Pennsylvania.

After reaching Pennsylvania, Tubman realized she had to save her friends and family from slavery. In December 1850, she heard her niece and niece’s children were going to be sold. Harriet managed to save her niece’s entire family. When she returned to Maryland to see her husband, she found out he was happily remarried. Tubman kept her head up and returned to work, using the Underground Railroad to save over 70 slaves, including her siblings and parents. After the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 made it a crime to help slaves avoid capture, Tubman had to re-route the Underground Railroad to Canada. In December 1851, Tubman led a group of 11 fugitives to Canada; one of her stops was Frederick Douglass’ house. Though locals in Maryland knew someone was responsible for all 70 missing slaves, no one suspected the petite disabled slave who ran away years ago. Years later, Tubman stated “I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say – I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” Her frequent trips earned her the nickname  Black Moses for leading slaves to freedom.

When the Civil War broke out Tubman acted as a cook and a nurse to the Union Army before being recruited as a spy due to her knowledge of the land. Tubman became the first American woman to lead an armed expedition in the war when she guided the Combahee River Raid. The raid liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina. When she was not helping the Union Army, she returned home to Auburn, New York to take care of her aging parents. After the Civil War ended, Tubman returned home on a train. After refusing to move into the smoking car, the conductor broke her arm while fellow passengers  cursed her. Tubman had risked her life helping the North win the war, yet she was still treated as an inferior being. She did not receive a Civil War pension until 1899.

In 1869, Tubman married Civil War veteran Nelson Davis and the couple adopted a baby girl name Gertie. Though slavery was over, Tubman knew she still had work to do. Tubman began attending women suffrage meetings and traveled to speak out in favor of women’s voting rights. Tubman even met Susan B. Anthony. After years of working for equality, Tubman was admitted to the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged due to her head injuries. Surrounded by friends and family, she died of pneumonia in 1913.

Harriet Tubman risked her life to save her friends, family, and strangers even though she was a black woman with a disability. Tubman  worked without pay cooking and taking care of the Union soldiers because she knew the North needed to win to free all of the slaves. And when she was not taking care of the soldiers, she was back at home taking care of her parents. Though Tubman could have had an easy life in Philadelphia, she spent her whole life helping others even when she didn’t have much  money. Tubman shows how anyone, no matter gender, color, disability, or level of education can become a hero.

 

Sources:

Harriet Tubman. biography

Texas Petition Insults Civil War Soldiers’ Memories

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English: Incidents of the war. A harvest of de...

English: Incidents of the war. A harvest of death, Gettysburg, PA. Dead Federal soldiers on battlefield. Negative by Timothy H. O’Sullivan. Positive by Alexander Gardner. Deutsch: Vorkommnisse im Krieg. Die Ernte des Todes. Gettysburg, Juli 1863 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On this day, November 19th, 149 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most famous speeches in United States history– the Gettysburg Address. President Lincoln read his inspiring speech at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The cemetery was where, months earlier, over 50,000 American (Union and Confederacy) soldiers died. The Civil War claimed over 620,000 American lives – a number that is estimated because not all of the bodies were recovered. This war resulted in families being torn apart and cities being burned to the ground; but yet, the talk of Civil War has emerged again… all because President Barack Obama was reelected.

All fifty states have started petitions about having their state seceding from the United States, but the top seven states (Texas, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee) are all from the South. Texas boasts of a petition of over 100,000 signatures; though in a state where the population is over 25 million, the petition only represents .0039% of the population. These petitioners actually believe that their state can stand alone, yet it was the original settlers of Texas who chose to be a part of the United States. These petitioners believe that they can protect themselves from other countries, but the Texans needed help from the United States during the Mexican-American War in the 1840s. These people believe they can make a profit, yet six of these seven states account for 23% of aid received from the federal government. Most of these states have tried to leave the United States before and it resulted in a bloody battle; as the philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes.” The possibility of the states seceding from the United States is slim as the Civil War showed.

As talk of secession continues, the talk of a possible Civil War has appeared in discussions amongst the social media websites. The people talk as though Civil War is needed in order to demonstrate how corrupt the United States has become…yet do they realize how over 620,000 Americans died in the last war. And in a world of planes, bombs, and drones, that number would only be greater. Are these petitioners willing to risk their lives to fight against their fellow countrymen because President Obama was re-elected? The first Civil War resulted after decades of issues, including: states’ rights, slavery, confusing territory outlines, international trading, and differing economy. The election of a Republican president was the final straw for the South since the states soon seceding after President Lincoln was elected. The fact that the petitioners want their state to leave the United States because someone they didn’t like was chosen as president is insulting to the original Southerners who had more than one reason to want to leave the country. The petitioners also argue that the United States is a corrupt country, even though the American people participated in democracy and chose their leader – a type of government that is uncommon worldwide. There are other countries where the people have no say in electing their countries’ leaders, but here in the United States, the White House has to waste time reviewing these petitions.

When people delightfully talk about a Civil War being probable, it appears as though they have never were taught about the Gettysburg Battle, the bloodiest battle on the American soil that took place during the original Civil War. The Gettysburg Battle took place in three days (July 1-3, 1863) but resulted in over 50,000 soldiers dying. Months later, President Abraham Lincoln was asked to attend and speak at the dedication of the cemetery. The speech was small, but yet it sent a message. President Lincoln said “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here” yet it seems as though people have forgotten how horrible war is. They forgot about the sight of blood, the smell of dead bodies, the tears of family members – they forgot how soldiers risked their lives to bring back the Southern states. “These dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” said President Lincoln, stating how the Civil War was a test on the United States’ strength and that it would survive the war… and he was right.

The United States is a land of freedom where every adult can vote for president. Instead of signing their names on a piece of paper, the petitioners should be productive and focus on what they can do to better the country or if they want, they can leave the United States on their own. But acting as though a possible Civil War is justified through the reelection of President Obama – it is insulting to everyone who fought in the Civil War.