Monday, May 13, 2013

Amy Morris Bradley, Nurse, Matron, Teacher

From Duke University Libraries

Amy Morris Bradley was born in East Vassalboro, Maine on September 12, 1823, the youngest of several children. In 1840, she began work as a school teacher, first in her hometown and later in Charlestown and East Cambridge, Massachusetts. After several years of suffering from respiratory illness, she elected to leave New England in late 1853 for San Jose, Costa Rica, where she served as a governess and teacher. She established the first English-language school in Central America and taught there for three years, returning to the states in 1857 when her elderly father fell ill. After his passing she relocated to the Boston area where she served as a translator.

The day after the first Battle of Bull Run, on July 22, 1861, Bradley wrote to George Brickett, the acting surgeon for the Third Maine Regiment, volunteering her services. She began employment as his field nurse in late August 1861, and by October was serving under him as matron of the regiment for the Fifth Maine. The following spring she joined the U.S. Sanitary Commission, serving on transport boats and later running a home for invalid soldiers in Washington, DC. From December 17, 1862 to September 12, 1865, Bradley served as a special relief agent at the Convalescent Camp in Alexandria, Virginia. She served for the entire life of the camp, arriving before the barracks had been erected and remaining until the hospital was decommissioned.

Following the war, the Soldier's Memorial Society and the American Unitarian Association recruited Bradley for missionary work in Wilmington, North Carolina. Once there, she determined the greatest need was for a school for poor white children, which she opened in January 1867 to three children. Within a week, more than sixty had enrolled. Bradley founded a number of schools over the next few years. Within five years, Bradley with support from Boston philanthropist Mary Tileston Hemenway raised the funds necessary to construct a modern school building. Opened in 1872 and known as the Tileston School, this was the first free public school in Wilmington. Bradley continued to teach there 1891. She passed away on January 15, 1904 in her small cottage located on the school's grounds.


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