Civil War Hospital Ship

The U.S.S. Red Rover, a captured Confederate vessel, was refitted as a hospital ship.

Evolution of Civil War Nursing

The evolution of the nursing profession in America was accelerated by the Civil War.

The Practice of Surgery

Amputations were the most common surgery performed during the Civil War.

Army Medical Museum and Library

Surgeon-General William Hammond established The Army Medical Museum in 1862. It was the first federal medical research facility.

Civil War Amputation Kit

Many Civil War surgical instruments had handles of bone, wood or ivory. They were never sterilized.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Memorial for a Teenage Soldier: Charles Edwin "Charlie" King

From: findagrave.com

Birth: Apr., 1849
West Chester
Chester County
Pennsylvania, USA
Death: Sep. 20, 1862
Washington County
Maryland, USA

Civil War Folk Figure. At age 13, he served as a drummer boy in Company F of the 49th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, which was part of the Union Army of the Potomac's VI Corps. During the September 17, 1862, Battle of Antietam, Maryland, the 49th Pennsylvania was stationed in the East Woods near the Miller Cornfield. During an artillery salvo of Confederate cannons, a shell exploded nearby, wounding several soldiers including Charlie King. Several of his company members carried him to a field hospital where three days later he died. He is known to be the youngest soldier of both Union and Confederate Armies to be killed in action in the Civil War. King's burial location is unknown to historians; he may have been laid to rest in a mass grave at Antietam. His parents are buried at Green Mount Cemetery, and a monument for King was later erected there as an Eagle Scout Project.

Family links:
  Pennell King (1828 - 1902)
  Adaline King (1837 - 1900)

Green Mount Cemetery *
West Chester
Chester County
Pennsylvania, USA

Then & Now: Caring for War's Dead and Wounded

From: pbs.org

A Civil War burial ground was a profoundly religious place. The circumstances of a person's death was thought to indicate much about the nature of one's afterlife; a "good death" meant passing at home surrounded by the family and friends one hoped to reunite with in heaven. The American Civil War upended these Christian notions of the proper way to die. On the battlefield, most soldiers died alone, anonymous, and without comfort, their families unaware of their fate.

Today, our government provides services for surviving veterans and their families, but it took the mass casualties of the Civil War to bring about this standard. The four-year war that claimed 2.5% of the American population caused the government to recognize the responsibility it owed to its soldiers and citizens, transforming the relationship between the nation and its people forever.

Before the Civil War:

*There was no effective ambulance corps to transport wounded soldiers from the battlefields to aid locations. As late as August 1862, a Union division took the field at the Second Bull Run without a single ambulance. After numerous pleas to the government by public health advocates such as Henry Bowditch, an ambulance corps was finally established in 1864.

*There were no federal hospitals providing comprehensive care. Wounded soldiers lucky enough to be rescued were taken to hastily established field hospitals constructed on an emergency basis. Volunteer relief groups, such as the U.S. Sanitary Commission, organized medical aid, while individual medical professionals such as Clara Barton bravely took to the battlefields to care for the wounded.

*Soldiers did not wear dog tags or have any system of personal records. Hundreds of thousand of bodies remained unidentified, leaving families with no knowledge of how their loved one died, or where they might be buried. When officials did attempt identification, it was often unreliable, resulting in live soldiers being recorded as deceased and dead soldiers being marked as only slightly wounded. By World War I, soldiers were wearing official id badges.

*There was no official system for notifying next of kin. If a body was identified, a fellow soldier might take it upon himself to write to the family of the deceased explaining how their loved one died and offering words of condolence. In the spring of 1865, Clara Barton established the Missing Soldiers Office in Washington, D.C. Her organization eventually helped provide information for about 22,000 soldiers who would have otherwise remained unknown.

*There was limited technology available to preserve the war dead for proper burial. With so many families requesting that the bodies of their deceased loved ones be transported home, preservation methods had to evolve beyond simply keeping a body on ice. When the use of arsenic in embalming fluid became widespread during the Civil War, the Medical Department of the Union Army set up battlefield embalming stations to put this chemical advancement into practice. This allowed bodies to be preserved for the often  long journey home.

*Using refrigerated transportation cases for bodies was not common. In addition to the advancements in embalming fluids, refrigerated transportation cases were greatly improved to preserve the body on its often long, and slow journey back home. The Staunton Transportation Company distributed fliers claiming that its "portable refrigerator" cases preserved the body in perfect condition.

*Federal services for veterans and their families were inadequate. After the war ended, the Nation's veterans assistance program expanded to include benefits and pensions not only for veterans, but also their widows and dependents. The first state veterans homes were also established which provided medical care even for injuries or diseases not acquired through battle. This paved the way for Congress to establish a new system of veteran's benefits when the U.S. entered World War I, which included disability compensation, insurance, and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled. In 1930, a comprehensive Veterans Administration was established, and today the system includes 152 hospitals, 800 outpatient clinics, 126 nursing home care units, and 35 domicillaries as well as numerous mental health and crisis prevention programs.

*There were no national cemeteries at Arlington, Gettysburg, or anywhere. As there were no federal provisions for burying the dead, responsibility for clearing a battlefield of dead bodies fell to individual units, volunteer organizations, and even civilians. It was almost two full years after the end of the Civil War before Congress finally passed formal legislation to establish and protect a vast system of national cemeteries.

*There was no Memorial Day. After the burial of many Union and Confederate soldiers, "decoration day" rituals began to spring up, which included placing fresh flowers on soldiers' graves. In the spring of 1868, General John Logan officially designated May 30th "for the purpose of strewing flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in the defense of their country," and Memorial Day as we know it today was established.

Today, the United States spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year trying to recover servicemen who are missing and presumed dead from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. And with a $137.6 billion budget the Department of Veterans Affairs now offers dozens of programs, including medical and financial services.

Humanity and Hope in a Southern Prison

By Peter Cozzens, 4-24-14

For more than the obvious reasons, Civil War soldiers in both armies despised military prisons. Not only were the inmates held against their will, but the hunger, filth, vermin, rampant disease, overcrowding, brutal treatment and soul-crushing ennui made prison camps slaughterhouses of slow death. Andersonville, the infamous Georgia prison, was the ultimate abattoir; during the summer of 1864 nearly one in three Union inmates died. In other Confederate prisons, the average mortality rate was 15.5 percent; in Union prisons, 12 percent.

There was one remarkable exception: the virtually unknown Cahaba Federal Prison, 15 miles southwest of Selma, Ala. At Cahaba, the mortality rate was just 3 percent, a lower death rate than that among American prisoners in German stalags during World War II. According to federal figures, only 147 of the 5,000 prisoners interned at Cahaba died there.

What made Cahaba unique among Civil War prisons? Simple humanity. The prison commandant, Col. Henry A. M. Henderson of Kentucky, understood Northerners. He had graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University and the Cincinnati Law School. Shortly after graduation and finding his true calling in the church, Henderson became a Methodist minister. When he assumed command of Cahaba in July 1863, a month after it opened, he pledged to run the prison with as much compassion as discipline and good order permitted.

Henderson didn’t have a lot to work with. The prison was built around a partly completed, 15,000-square-foot cotton warehouse in the town of Cahaba on the west bank of the Alabama River. Within its brick walls, 250 rough-timber bunks, capable of sleeping two men each, were built one atop of the other. An unfinished roof left 1,600 square feet in the center exposed to the elements. Confederate prison authorities built a 12-foot-high wooden stockade around the warehouse, with allowance made for a small outdoor cooking yard. The prison’s official capacity was 500; by the time Henderson arrived, it already had climbed to 660, with latecomers compelled to sleep on the dirt floor of the warehouse.

The Kentuckian’s first order of business was to improve sanitary conditions. Drinking water came from an artesian well that emptied into an open gutter, which in turn flowed 200 yards through town before entering the northwest corner of the stockade. In his effort to depollute the water supply, Henderson had a willing ally in the prison surgeon R. H. Whitfield. Making his case to the Medical Department, Whitfield said the water, in its course from the well to the stockade, “has been subjected to the washings of the hands, feet, faces, and heads of soldiers, citizens, and negroes, buckets, tubs, and spittoons, of groceries, offices, and hospital, hogs, dogs, cows, and filth of all kinds from the streets and other sources.” Whitfield’s graphic plea did the trick; quartermasters installed pipes to replace the open ditch, and clean water flowed into the prison.

To ensure it remained that way, the latrines – closed outhouses, not open filth holes in the center of camp, as at Andersonville – were built at the southeastern corner of the prison, where the water exited. Consequently, dysentery was almost unknown at Cahaba; the majority of prisoners who died there seem to have entered the prison already in a weakened state.

Those who fell ill were well cared for at the prison hospital, located in a rambling, two-story hotel called Bell Tavern that the Confederacy had commandeered to serve both the guards and the prisoners. Whitfield treated Northerners and Southerners with equal consideration. Men died in the Bell Tavern hospital, but not for want of care.

Neither did they die for want of effort by Henderson, who in the autumn of 1864 found himself commandant of the most overcrowded of all Civil War prisons. That summer the Union’s commanding general, Ulysses S. Grant, halted prisoner-of-war exchanges. As a result, Cahaba’s population surged to 2,151 in October, a number 600 percent above the prison’s capacity (Andersonville ran 330 percent above capacity at its peak). Each man had only 7.5 square feet to call his own; those at Andersonville had 35 square feet of space, albeit squalid, per man.

Despite the ban on exchanges, Henderson bypassed his own chain of command and proposed to the Union district commander, Maj. Gen. Cadwallader C. Washburn, a special exchange of 350 of Cahaba’s most debilitated inmates. Cadwallader forwarded the request, along with a letter praising Henderson’s management, but General Grant denied the appeal.

Henderson persevered. With winter drawing near and the prisoners poorly clad, he suggested to Washburn that the federals send a truce ship up the Alabama River to Cahaba with supplies. Henderson and Washburn overcame the reservations of their superiors, and in December a Union steamboat offloaded 2,000 uniforms, 4,000 pairs of socks, 1,500 blankets, medicine and mess tins.

Henderson had done his best. But with overcrowding came a drop in rations, an inevitable course in a South scarcely able to feed its own troops by then. Prisoners wanted food more than supplies. Most of them bartered their new clothing to guards in exchange for victuals, and, reported Henderson sadly, the prisoners “were left with the same scanty clothing and ragged blankets in a climate particularly severe in winter.”

Homesickness and ennui could kill men as effectively as disease, so Henderson and his subordinates did what they could to keep the men’s minds occupied. “Every day on the arrival of the mail, one of them would bring in a late paper, stand up on a box and read the news,” recalled Sgt. Melvin Grigsby of Wisconsin. “In many other ways, such as procuring writing material and forwarding letters for us, they manifested such kindly feeling as one honorable soldier will always manifest toward brother soldier, enemy though he may be, in misfortune.”

Prisoners at Cahaba also were blessed with their own angel of mercy: Amanda Gardner, whose well-appointed home stood just outside the prison compound. There was no doubting her pro-Confederate convictions; Ms. Gardner had lost one of her two sons to Yankee bullets at the First Battle of Bull Run. But she had a reputation, a prison guard told Sergeant Grigsby, “of being one of the kindest-hearted and most intelligent women in town.” Soon after Cahaba opened, she began sending gifts of food that her young daughter slipped through cracks in the stockade walls with the connivance of friendly guards. When winter came, she cut every carpet in her home into blankets to “relieve the suffering of those poor prisoners.”

Most beneficial to prisoner morale was the generous use she made of a superb book collection her uncle had bequeathed her. Prisoners had only to send a note by a guard to Gardner or her daughter to borrow a book from library. At Andersonville prisoners scuffled over dog-eared back issues of Harper’s Weekly to alleviate the tedium. At Cahaba inmates enjoyed finely bound copies of the classics and a wide assortment of recent novels, as well as works of history, philosophy, science and poetry. Word of Gardner’s kindness spread beyond the prison walls to the Union lines; when a federal cavalry detachment realized they had captured her remaining son, they paroled him through the lines to her care.

Despite the best intentions of Henderson and Gardner, life at Cahaba was not easy. By late 1864 the average daily issue of rations fell to 12 ounces of cornmeal, 8 ounces of often-rancid beef and occasionally some bug-infested peas. Prisoners were not starved, but they were hungry enough that thoughts of food permeated their dreams. “The same experience was often repeated,” remembered an Illinois cavalryman, Jesse Hawes. “Go to the bed of sand at 9:00 p.m., dream of food till 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., awake, go to the water barrel, drink, and return to sleep again if the rats would permit sleep.”

The rat population grew apace with that of the prisoners until they became a plague. They burrowed through the warehouse and swarmed over the cooking yard. “At first they made me nervous, lest they should do me serious injury before I should awake,” said Hawes. “But after several nights’ experience that feeling was supplanted by one of irritation that they should keep waking me up so many times that at length became nearly unbearable.”

Harder yet to bear were lice, from which no prisoner was free. An Illinois private said that after his first night at Cahaba his uniform was so infested that it “looked more like pepper and salt than blue.” Hawes agreed. Lice “crawled upon our clothing by day, crawled over our bodies, into the ears, even into the nostrils and mouths by night.”

To compound the prisoners’ misery, in early March 1865 the inmates of Cahaba faced a natural disaster of the first order. For several days rain had pounded the prison and inundated the surrounding countryside. On March 1 the Cahaba River, north of town, overflowed its banks. Water raced through Cahaba and swept into the stockade. Latrines backed up, and by nightfall prisoners found themselves waist-deep in ice-cold, fetid water.

Unfortunately for them, Colonel Henderson was no longer at Cahaba. With the war winding down, General Grant had relented on prisoner exchanges. Confederate authorities detailed Henderson to organize exchanges at a neutral site in Vicksburg, leaving the prison under the command of Lt. Col. Samuel Jones, a mean-spirited martinet who once threatened to run Ms. Gardner out of town because of her “sympathy for the damned Yankees.” Refusing an appeal from his own guards to permit the prisoners to seek refuge on high ground outside the stockade until the waters receded, Jones left the federals shivering in the water for three days. Then, as the water finally drained from the stockade, he told the incredulous inmates that they were to be paroled immediately. The war was all but over.

For four weeks steamboats plied the Alabama River with prisoners. Most were taken to Vicksburg, where they mingled with the skeletons in blue from Andersonville. Some 4,700 Union prisoners awaited transportation home. Some 1,100 were sick, nearly all of whom were from Andersonville. The Cahaba men, reported Union department commander Napoleon T. Dana, were in “excellent health.”

But not for long. On April 24, the long months of humane work by Henderson ended in unspeakable tragedy. The Union paddle steamer Sultana left Vicksburg crammed with 2,000 Union prisoners, more than half of them Cahaba men. The Sultana had faulty boilers and a legal capacity of 376 passengers. Three days after setting off up the Mississippi three of the four boilers exploded, and the Sultana sank. Three-quarters of the men onboard died.

General Dana took care to see that no harm came to Henderson while he was at Vicksburg, assigning a detachment of Indiana cavalry to act as the colonel’s personal bodyguard. After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, not even a well-meaning Confederate like Henderson was safe within Union lines. So Dana spirited him across the Mississippi River into a camp of Texas Rangers.

Henderson went on to live a long and productive life. He served two terms as superintendent of public schools in Kentucky before returning to the clergy. The Reverend Doctor Henderson was pastor of the Jersey City, N.J., Methodist Church when on May 11, 1883 its most prominent member, Mrs. Hannah Simpson Grant, passed away. Her son, Ulysses S. Grant, entrusted funeral arrangements to Henderson and asked him to prepare an appropriate eulogy. It was a high tribute to Henderson’s character indeed that the former commanding general of the Union army would place such trust in the one-time commandant of a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp.

Henderson died in Cincinnati in 1912. Obituaries incorrectly said he had been a Confederate general, omitting any reference to his duty at Cahaba. Not that it mattered. After the 1865 flood the county seat moved from Cahaba to Selma, and by the turn of the century Cahaba was a ghost town; the warehouse prison demolished for the bricks. The horrors of Andersonville and notoriety of its commandant Henry Wirz would forever remain etched in American memory; memories of Col. Henry A. M. Henderson’s humanity were buried with the good reverend.

Peter Cozzens is the author of 16 books on the American Civil War and the Indian Wars of the American West, including “The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battles for Chattanooga.”

Image: Cahaba Federal Prison

From: opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

Pewter Medical Irrigator Tip

From: joshuasattic.com

This is a dug pewter syringe-irrigator tip. It has threads where it was screwed into a metal syringe. Water could be used to flush wounds, body cavities, or the andomen during surgery. The end of this has holes for creating a pressurized jet of water. This was dug near Fairfax Station, VA. The site is forever covered by a McDonalds now! What other relics from our past are locked under new homes, parking lots, roads, schools and strip malls? A bullet from same site shows the size of this irrigator tip. It is 4 1/8 inches long.

Left for Dead in Virginia

By Ronald S. Coddington, 6-28-12

George T. Perkins and his Union comrades breathed a collective sigh of relief on the afternoon of June 27, 1862. Positioned behind breastworks along a stretch of pinewoods on the battlefield of Gaines’s Mill, they listened as the pounding of artillery and rattling of musketry on their left rose and faded. Then another din on their right, followed by three Yankee huzzahs.

A round of smiles, handshakes and backslapping broke out among this hearty band of brothers who belonged to the 22nd Massachusetts Infantry. Held in reserve, the regiment did not expect to fight this day. It appeared that the services of Perkins, a 26-year-old hospital steward, would not be required.

The celebration was premature.

The Confederates renewed the fight toward nightfall and broke the lines on either side of the 22nd. On came the gray juggernaut, its battle line visible as it swept across a hill opposite the Massachusetts men. Perkins would be needed after all.

Caught off guard by the unexpected advance, Union soldiers from one defeated regiment stumbled up and over the breastworks, the Confederates in hot pursuit. The Federals cried out, “Get up, boys, and give them some!” as they ran to the rear.

Perkins and the rest of the 22nd braced for the Confederate onslaught. According to the historians of the regiment, an officer ordered “Commence firing! Shoot low!” The rank and file responded with a well-aimed volley. “This galling fire delivered in the centre of the rebel line, staggered it, and they came on in the shape of a V, with the opening toward us.” The engagement heated up as gun smoke wafted through the woods and mixed with the lingering light of day.

The Confederates flanked the 22nd and began to fire. The thin blue line broke and the men fled. They had not gone far before their colonel, Jesse Gove, barked, “Halt! Twenty-second!” A respected commander who had served in the pre-war regular Army, his words checked the retreat. The men rallied just as the Confederates rushed to finish them off. “Those who had charges in their guns turned and delivered fire into the very faces of the advancing foe,” stated the regimental historians.

The Confederates returned fire. Colonel Gove was instantly killed, his body left behind and never recovered. A bullet ripped into the regimental major’s shoulder, and the adjutant suffered a wound. Many of the company officers were hit as well, while enlisted men were shot down or captured as the unit’s integrity disintegrated. Command fell to a captain, who tried unsuccessfully to rally a remnant of the shattered regiment around the colors.

Meanwhile, Perkins scrambled to save the fallen as a hail of Rebel lead swept the battlefield. As he attempted to rescue one man, a musket ball tore into his right lower back near the spinal column. He fell heavily to the ground. An alert soldier managed to place Perkins on a riderless horse and get him out of there.

Perkins was taken to a field hospital, where a surgeon examined him and located the bullet, which had lodged in his right chest. Pvt. George Copeland, a family friend who served with Perkins, happened to be on the scene. Copeland described the surgeon’s response: “He said he would not extract the ball as it would make no difference. I asked him if I should infer that it was mortal. He did not give me an answer and hurried off.”

Another surgeon examined Perkins and came to the same conclusion. Soldiers transported him to nearby Savage’s Station, where wounded soldiers were gathered for further treatment — or, in Perkins’s case, so his last hours could be as comfortable as possible.

Copeland accompanied Perkins and dressed the wound as best he could. “He seemed to be suffering considerably. I asked him if he felt the ball had entered the cavity. He said no. I do not think he thought it mortal for he said nothing about his home, but asked me to send his things by the first opportunity.” Copeland returned to what remained of the 22nd, leaving Perkins to his fate, crudely bandaged in his torn and bloodied uniform with his sword, belt and sash.

Perkins understood his situation as well if not better than the surgeons who had examined him. A doctor in peacetime, he had earned a medical degree from Harvard in 1857. His interest in medicine stemmed from his parents: his father, Thomas, was an “eclectic physician,” or a doctor who treated patients with botanical remedies and physical therapy. His mother, Betsey, was as a “clairvoyant physician,” or one who made a diagnosis after “astute observation” — literally, the alleged ability to see the patient’s symptoms.

Perkins eagerly offered his medical services to the Army after the war started. He had hoped to become a surgeon, the ranking doctor in a regiment, but there were not enough of the coveted commissions to go around. He joined the Army anyway. In the autumn of 1861 he enlisted as a hospital steward in the 22nd, also known as “Henry Wilson’s Regiment,” after the Republican senator who raised and briefly commanded it.

Ordered to Virginia and assigned to the Army of the Potomac, the regiment received its baptism under fire before Yorktown at the beginning of the Peninsula Campaign. A few men were listed as wounded on April 5, 1862. Gaines’ Mill, fought at the end of the campaign as one of the engagements of the Seven Days battles, exacted a much higher toll. Regimental casualties amounted to 279, including 71 killed outright. “It was a sad night for the Twenty-second. Not a man but had lost a comrade, for one-half of those who marched in the morning were no longer in the ranks,” recorded the regimental historians.

A number of the wounded from the 22nd, Perkins included, were treated in the field hospital at Savage’s Station. Hundreds of injured men streamed onto the hospital grounds from the surrounding area. Surgeons worked feverishly to save lives.

On the second day after Perkins arrived, as the entire Union Army continued its retreat to a new base at Harrison’s Landing along the James River, Confederates captured the hospital and 2,500 men, including doctors, attendants and patients. Perkins now became a prisoner of war. About this time a surgeon, one of the Union doctors who had chosen to remain with the wounded, revisited Perkins and removed the bullet. Miraculously, the projectile had not broken a bone, damaged his spine or pierced an organ.

Meanwhile, news of Perkins’s plight made its way to his wife, Annie, in Boston. She determined to travel to Virginia and plead for her husband’s release. She confided her plans in a letter to Private Copeland. He replied, “I do not think it would be advisable for you to try to get him. He is probably receiving good care and will be returned.,” he replied. “Prisoners are being released as fast as exchanged.”

Indeed, Perkins gained his release a month later. He went home to Boston to recuperate and rejoined the regiment before the end of the year. He went on to become an assistant surgeon and served with distinction — during the Overland Campaign in 1864, according to a fellow physician, Perkins was “almost constantly at the front, often under fire, rendering great aid to our brave boys as they came out wounded from the bloody fields.”

Perkins mustered out of the 22nd after its three-year term of enlistment ended in late 1864. He went on to serve in two more regiments, and ended his volunteer military career as a full surgeon in the summer of 1865. Afterward he returned to Boston, reunited with Annie and began a family that grew to include three children. In the late 1870s, voters elected him to the city council on the Republican ticket.

His wound troubled him for the rest of his life. Almost every year it swelled and broke open. Annie recalled that “there came from the wound small bits of cloth or threads and after these openings and discharges for some little time then it would apparently be sealed up again.” One November night in 1880, after another episode when his old wound had reopened, he was seized with difficulty in breathing and speaking. Twenty minutes later Perkins was dead. Annie remembered, “Just before his death he laid his hand over the wound and exclaimed, ‘Oh! My stomach, my stomach!’”

His doctor first claimed that his war injury resulted in death, but later ruled heart failure as the likely cause. Perkins was 44.

Ronald S. Coddington is the author of “Faces of the Civil War” and “Faces of the Confederacy.” His new book, “African American Faces of the Civil War,” will be available in the fall. He writes “Faces of War,” a column for the Civil War News.

Image 1: George Thomas Perkins pictured after his promotion from hospital steward to assistant surgeon, circa 1863.

Image 2: Massachusetts Infantry in action at Gaines’ Mill from Henry Wilson’s Regiment, digitized by Google.

From: opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

Mary Eliza Mahoney: The First African-American Professional Registered Nurse

From: pbs.org

Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first black professional nurse in America, and an active organizer among African American nurses. She was born in Boston, on May 7, 1845, the oldest of three children. At the age of 18, she decided to pursue a career in nursing, working at the progressive New England Hospital for Women and Children. In 1878, at age 33, she was accepted in that hospital's nursing school, the first professional nursing program in the country. Of the 42 students who started that year, Mahoney was one of just four who graduated the next year. The training required 12 months in the hospital's medical, surgical, and maternity wards, lectures and instruction by doctors on the ward, as well as four months of work as a private-duty nurse.

After graduation, Mahoney registered for work as a private-duty nurse. Families that employed Mahoney praised her calm and quiet efficiency. Her professionalism helped raise the status of all nurses. At a time when nurses were often assigned domestic chores as well as nursing duties, she refused to take her meals with household staff. As he reputation spread, Mahoney received requests from patients as far away as New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina.

Mahoney was one of the first black members of the organization that later became the American Nurses Association (A.N.A.). When that later organization proved slow to admit black nurses, Mahoney strongly supported the establishment of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (N.A.C.G.N.), and delivered the welcome address at that organization's first annual convention, in 1909. In that speech, Mahoney recognized the inequalities in nursing education and called for a demonstration at the New England Hospital to have more African American students admitted. The conference members responded by electing her to be association chaplain and giving her a lifetime membership.

For over a decade after that, Mahoney helped recruit nurses to joint the organization. In 1911 she took the helm at the Howard Orphan Asylum in New York, and served there for over a year.

Mahoney was deeply concerned with women's equality and a strong supporter of the movement to gain women the right to vote. When that movement succeeded with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, she was among the first women in Boston to register to vote -- at the age of 76.

Mahoney contracted breast cancer in 1923 and died in 1926. Her grave in Everett, Massachusetts, is the site of national pilgrimages. In 1936, the N.A.C.G.N. established an award in her honor (later continued by the A.N.A.) to raise the status of black nurses. She was inducted into the A.N.A.'s Hall of Fame in 1976.

The effort for equality that Mahoney launched continued. From about 2,400 in 1910, the number of African American women in nursing had more than doubled by 1930, four years after Mahoney's death.


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