Hired to Care: American Civil War Nurses and the Military Body

Date: 19 April 2012
Time: 4:00pm
Venue: Room 150, Main Building, The University of Hong Kong

Hired to Care: American Civil War Nurses and the Military Body by Professor Jane Schultz (Indiana University-Purdue University )

Inspired by the example of Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, thousands of women from diverse walks of life worked in relief services during the American Civil War (1861-1865)—before the germ theory was widely understood or antisepsis widely practiced. Not entirely welcome in military or medical circles despite their domestic and moral credentials, female relief workers quickly learned that their peacetime social alliances with surgeons and officers seldom held fast in military hospitals. Instead they established bonds with sick and wounded soldiers under their care who, like them, languished at the bottom of an institutional hierarchy. Army nurses thus found themselves at odds with military surgeons but advocating for men of the rank and file, a dynamic that made the soldier’s body (and the soldiery itself) a symbolic site of conflict between these “warring” parties. “Hired to Care” explores the social, political, and medical contexts of this adversity and suggests, through documentary sources and personal narratives, how female relief workers negotiated the chaos of the medical war, normalizing waged work for middle-class women and launching nursing as a medical profession.

About the speaker:
Jane Schultz is Professor of English and Adjunct Professor of American Studies, Women's Studies, Medical Humanities, Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis. Her reserch focuses on the social history of Civil War relief work, history of nursing, and gender studies. Professor Schultz's recent books include 'Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America'(2004) and 'This Birth Place of Souls: The Diary of Harriet Eaton, Civil War Nurse' (2010).

All are welcome; no pre-registration is required.

The event is co-organised in conjunction with the Department of History, HKU