First Women Nurses

History of American Women Nurses

Nurses in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783)
The Revolutionary War shifted the role of some women from housewives to caregivers on the battlefront. Soon after the Continental Army was created in 1775 to fight in the Revolutionary War, General George Washington was made aware that the wounded and sick required good female nurses, as the wounded soldiers were suffering greatly.

Image: Following the Army by Pamela Patrick White
Many women camp followers were hired to serve as nurses in the Continental Army

Backstory
Throughout history most healthcare took place in the home by family, friends and neighbors with knowledge of healing practices. In the United States, family-centered sick care remained traditional until the nineteenth century. Sick care delivered by other than family and close acquaintances was generally limited to epidemics and plagues that periodically swept through towns and cities.

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Marie Zakrzewska

Founder of the New England Hospital for Women and Children

In 1862, Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, an American physician of Polish descent, made a name for herself as a pioneer female doctor. She founded the New England Hospital for Women and Children, the first hospital in Boston – and the second in the United States – to be run by women doctors and surgeons.

Early Years
Marie Zakrzewska (pronounced Zak-SHEV-ska) was born September 6, 1829 in Berlin, Germany, the eldest of six children to Ludwig Martin Zakrzewski and Caroline Fredericke Wilhelmina Urban. Her father was from a noble Polish family who had lost their wealth and property to the Russians, so he worked as a civil servant. Her grandmother was a veterinary surgeon, and her mother worked as a midwife. From age 13, Marie accompanied her mother on her rounds.

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Sarah Dorsey

Louisiana Author and Plantation Owner

Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey was a novelist and historian from Louisiana. She published several novels and a highly regarded biography of Henry Watkins Allen, governor of Louisiana during the Civil War. It is considered an important contribution to the literature of the Lost Cause.

Early Years
Sarah Anne Ellis was born February 16, 1829 to Mary Malvina Routh Ellis and Thomas George Percy Ellis at the family estate in Natchez, Mississippi. Both of her parents were from wealthy families, and they owned plantations in Louisiana and Arkansas. Sarah was her serious-minded father’s joy, but he died in 1839 when she was nine.

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Adelicia Acklen

One of the Wealthiest Women in the South

Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham (1817–1887) was one of the wealthiest women of the antebellum South. Her first husband died in 1846, leaving her an inheritance valued at approximately $1 million, which included seven Louisiana cotton plantations, a two-thousand-acre farm in Gallatin, Tennessee and hundreds of slaves. While Joseph Acklen was a great help to Adelicia in the operation of her many properties, she was actively involved in the management of her businesses, especially after his death.

Early Years
Adelicia Hayes was born on March 15, 1817 into a prominent family in Nashville, Tennessee. Her father was Oliver Bliss Hayes, a lawyer, judge and cousin of Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States. Her mother was Sarah Clemmons Hightower Hayes of Franklin, Tennessee. Adelicia attended the Nashville Female Academy and at 17 was engaged to Alphonso Gibbs, a Harvard graduate who died before the wedding.

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