Welcome to the Falmouth Library's page designed to shed light on the role women played in the American Civil War. As we approach the Sesquicentennial of the War, we will be sharing resources and information about this topic, focusing specifically on the role Maine women played during the war.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Union Hotel Hospital Revisited

I recently reviewed the book My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira and was surprised and chagrined to almost immediately receive 2 comments that pointed out my error concerning the staffing of the hospital. One comment came from the author of the book!  I knew that Hannah Ropes and Louisa May Alcott both served at the hospital at the same time, so I mistakenly assumed the fictional Mary Sutter was there, as well. Alas, I didn't check my dates before hitting the "publish" button. My critics were correct, of course. The fictional Mary Sutter was decidedly at the hospital and gone before Hannah (and then later) Louisa May showed up.  Robin Oliveira's research was impeccable.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mary Sutter

My Name is Mary Sutter is a work of fiction by Robin Oliveira published by Viking in 2010. The tale begins in 1861 just as the Civil War is beginning. Mary is a midwife in Albany, New York, with aspirations to become a surgeon. Mary faced seemingly unsurmountable barriers to her aspirations. The medical college would not let her enroll and a local surgeon she hoped would take her on as an apprentice, was leaving for the war. The war, however gave her new opportunities to expand her horizons. Mary did what many women of that time did: left home and went to volunteer as a nurse. Even that was filled with obstacles. At last she found a post at the Union Hotel Hospital, one of the first hospitals established during the war by the army.  The author's description of life in those times, travel, conditions of Washington, and even the description of the Union Hotel Hospital are quite accurate. The author clearly did a lot of research. Only the fact that the book reads like Mary, Doctor Stipp and hundreds of patients were the only people inhabiting the hospital seems somewhat wrong. All other nurses and personnel are kept in the background. I am surprised that the author did not make reference to Louisa May Alcott (who also worked there for a short time), nor did she make any reference to Hannah Ropes, the matron of the hospital who was from Maine, who died there. In fact, as dire as the conditions are that the author describes in this story, the actual Union Hotel Hospital may have been even worse. Despite hardship, heart-break, and more, Mary perserveres, as did several other women who were able to become surgeons based on their experiences during the war. This is a great read for those interested in the role of women during the Civil War and I highly recommend it. For more information about the author and her research visit:  http://www.robinoliveira.com/