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Abstract

Like Civil War soldiers, nurses in the Northern forces found it difficult to sustain the conflicting duties to home, nation, and army. It was especially difficult for women to assume responsibilities in battlefield hospitals. Women struggled with their new roles, which challenged and extended notions of nineteenth century womanhood. Furthermore, navigating a military establishment of male power, while also trying to maintain connections to home, forced women to use gender assumptions to their advantage when trying to gain agency in the hospitals, respect from their patients, and independence from their superiors. Women brought their Victorian manners, morals and duties into the public sphere out of necessity for the war effort and proved themselves worthy of respect by skill and strength when the government’s medical care was insufficient. Women of the North and their male allies were what the Civil War demanded and were therefore more valuable than skill in military strategy or even medical technique.

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