Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Open Access
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
James P. Whittenburg
Katherine K. Preston
The National Archives holds the pension applications of 2,448 Civil War nurses. These files represent a tremendous source of information on Civil War nurses: both their wartime experiences and their post-war lives. They also potentially document a significant shift in attitudes towards women's military service, making them perfect for an examination of social history from 1860 to the turn of the 20th century. Yet no one has done an in-depth analysis of these pension records, the legislation that made them possible, or the process that nurses went through in their struggle for military pensions. In this study, I examine a sample of 377 pension applications to address issues of race, gender and societal expectations, and the relationships between women, the U.S. military, and the federal government. The pension applications that make up this sample were the result of four years of false starts and failed compromises between Congress and two organizations, the Woman's Relief Corps (WRC) and the Army Nurses' Association (ANA). Their efforts resulted in the Army Nurses Pension Act, also known to its supporters as "The Bill Which Finally Passed." Signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison on August 5, 1892, this bill entitled all women who served as nurses in the Union Army during the American Civil War to a pension of $12 per month, provided they had served at least six months and had been hired by someone authorized by the War Department to engage nurses
Metheny, Hannah, "'For A Woman': The Fight for Pensions for Civil War Army Nurses" (2013). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 573.
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