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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Clarissa Jones, Nurse for All

Clarissa Jones: Union or Confederate, Nurse Cared for All

By Janet D. Terrell

Civil War nurse Clarissa Jones of Philadelphia has captured the admiration of nurse historian Chris Foard, RN, MSN, physician liaison, Bayhealth Medical Center, Dover, Del. When war erupted, the 28-year-old Jones was principal of Rittenhouse Grammar School for Girls. She served as a volunteer nurse, using skills she gained caring for her ailing mother.

In 1863, just after the Battle of Gettysburg, she was stationed in a field hospital of the Second Division Union Army with 600 patients, 100 of whom were Confederate captives. Foard says Jones aided injured Union soldiers as well as dying Confederate soldiers in squalid conditions. At one point, she read the burial service for a dead Confederate officer because no chaplain was available. Battlefield hospitals were filthy, without antiseptics and sometimes without bandages. At times, Jones was the only female nurse.

According to Foard, Jones galvanized the Germantown community where she lived to send supplies to wounded soldiers. She wrote letters and returned to update townspeople on the war’s progress and the needs of hospitals for food and supplies. Jones kept her job as principal while she volunteered. According to Foard, she served at several hospitals and a hospital steamer ship, which meant leaving family and her job for longer periods.
“Clarissa’s impact assisted in paving the way for American nursing,” Foard said. “Today, nurses are on the forefront of lobbying for healthcare reform and committed to provide optimal services to patients in our communities.”

According to information from the Germantown Historical Society, Jones accompanied wagons loaded with supplies across nearly impassable roads to reach hospitals. A news report said she personally knew President Abraham Lincoln. Another article indicated she met the president during a White House reception.

In 1872, she married John Dye of Germantown. Her activism did not end as she served two terms as president of the National Association of Army Nurses of the Civil War and chaired a committee that sought pensions for volunteer Army nurses. The National Archives has a 1907 card Jones filed seeking a pension, but it wasn’t until years later that a bill was passed granting pensions to surviving nurses, Foard said.

The Johnstown, Pa., flood of 1888 claimed more than 2,000 lives. Jones responded by organizing the Women’s Permanent Emergency Association of Germantown to aid those in need. That group was active in the Spanish-American War and World War I, Foard said.

Her efforts to win pensions for volunteer nurses, as well as her care of wounded soldiers, made her a pioneer and forerunner of today’s nurses, he said.

1 comments:

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