Before the Civil War began only men were allowed to be nurses

Before the Civil War began, only men were allowed to be nurses because women’s rights did not yet exist. Women during that time took on the role of taking care of their children by preparing meals, doing their laundry, and caring for them when they got sick. Females were not allowed to become nurses at that time mostly because “in the crisis of wartime,” army physicians believed that women nurses would not be able to adjust to the regulations of the military hospitals (1). With the beginning of the war, however, there was a newspaper account requesting nurses for medical treatment and many women responded (1). Women wanted to confront class and gender biases, so they volunteered to become nurses (2). This was the beginning of a new era where women would take on new forms of work including health care. When the war began, there were no trained nurses or schools to teach women about nursing. But, by the end of the civil war, the untrained volunteer nurses of the union army had gained respect from the army physicians and especially by the soldiers that they had cared for (1). As time passed, female nurses took on a more professional image and took on more responsibility (1). The female nurses also had changed the public opinion of women’s work in healthcare by taking on more difficult tasks (1). History shows that an estimated 3,000 women served as nurses in the war with nothing but their basic knowledge of nursing care. However after the civil war, most of the nurses did not continue working (2). Only few women continued on to run hospitals, go through medical training, and train other nurses (2). During the war, nearly all women were involved with some type of work which includes patient care, delivering food, cleaning wounds, and cleaning linens (2). Few white women worked in Confederate hospitals because the system relied on slave labor (2). A few women such as Clara Barton, tended to soldiers on the battlefield rather than in hospitals (2). Most women nurses however, worked in the urban areas away from the fighting (2). Confederate nurses were often described as “mature white women, widowed or unmarried, from the middle or upper class (2).” People who sought to become nurses were middle class white women, recovering soldiers, nuns, or catholic sisters (2). While white men and women were given the easier, less difficult tasks, black men and women were given the difficult tasks in the kitchen or laundries (2). About half of the sisters who served as nurses during the Civil War were from the Daughters of Charity (2). Nurses often substituted their home-treatments for drugs prescribed and were considered disruptive when trying to avoid amputations, so they were often criticized (1). A disease known as scurvy was caused by a lack of Vitamin C and it was members of the Sanitary Commission who recognized that the soldiers didn’t have access to any vegetables or fruit which is why so many people died during the Civil War (1). Women’s contribution to the medical field, healthcare, and the war was significant to the outcome.Since the confederate and union armies were structured according to race and class, the U.S. Secretary of War appointed Dorothea L. Dix as Superintendent of Female Nurses of the Army by Lincoln’s Secretary of War in April 1861 (1). As superintendent, Dorothea Dix’s goal was to manage the volunteers who wanted to become nurses (2). Dix required all female nurses to be mature, responsible, respectable, and over the age of 30. Despite the difficulties, most women found a way to become a nurse without following the harsh requirements (2). Women avoided the regulations by serving as volunteer nurses and doing so without government salaries (1). Another one of the requirement were for the applicants to have prior education in nursing which was why the volunteers had to find a way around the requirements (1). Although Dorothea Dix herself created the requirements, she didn’t have any education in nursing except for previous humanitarian activities (1). Women at this time were determined to fight for their rights so they found a way to contribute anyway.There are many examples of women who significantly contributed as nurses, for example, Sally Tompkins who instead of choosing to do what most women at her time did which included sewing, knitting, cooking, and cleaning for soldiers, decided to become a nurse (3). Tompkins and other women set up a hospital in a private home because Richmond was filled with wounded soldiers after the Battle of Bull Run (3). Robertson Hospital became an organized and sanitary health care system for the wounded and sick in the care of Tompkins (3). With all of her success in caring for the sick and wounded through her effective medical facilities, Tompkins earned a commission as Captain in the Confederate Cavalry (3). During the war, Tompkins’ hospital treated over 1,300 men fighting in the war. The South had no official organization for nurses and no “government-funded sanitary commissions” to treat the Confederate soldiers so Sally Tompkins’ funded her hospital using her own finances and organizational talents (3). Another influential nurse from the Civil War was Mary Ann Bickerdyke (1). Mary Ann Bickerdyke was one of the most resourceful nurses of the war (1). She had become a matron of the Gayoso Hospital,also known as Mother Bickerdyke Hospital, which was important because it treated so many men during the Civil War (1).As time went on, women proved themselves to be just as capable as men in the medical field. The determination, compassion, and bravery of women like Mary Ann Bickerdyke, Sally Tompkins, Dorothea L. Dix, and Clara Barton helped pave the way for generations to come.

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