I promise you I have been reading- I am just WAY behind on writing reviews!
One of the other books I read recently had a character that was a nurse during the Civil War. She was treated HORRIBLY when she returned home from the war because as a woman she had “no right” to be around men who weren’t properly clothed or could possibly have bad thoughts as a result of seeing her while they were sick. I thought surely the author had found a small segment of the population who believed that during the late 1800s. How could anyone think it was disgraceful for someone to help the sick during a war?
But this past week I read Wedded to War (Heroines Behind the Lines) and discovered that this was in fact the norm. The main character, Charlotte Waverly, is a wealthy New York Socialite who decides to leave the comfort of her family home and volunteer as a nurse for the Union during the Civil War. The whole process of even being accepted was insane- the women had to be over 30, married and unattractive. As a 28 year old single female she had to try to keep her head down and not draw attention to herself (she was not very good at this).
Even after completing her training she was treated as a second class citizen by the doctors in the field hospitals. While men were dying around her the doctors would make her spend days cleaning bed pans or doing other tasks in an attempt to wear her out and try to get her to go home. The conditions were deplorable making me wonder if we lost more men to illness in these wars than we did to bullets.
A secondary character in the book is Ruby- an Irish immigrant who came to the US to escape the death caused by the potato famine. She has been reduced to living in Five Points- the largest slum in New York City. She and Charlotte end up being friends through a strange series of events.
The book is yet another example in my country’s history when women were treated as second hand citizens at a time where their contributions were the difference between life and death for thousands of people. In my modern view point it is almost impossible to imagine nurses overwhelmingly being male. With both battlefield and hospital conditions being so horrible I would have thought the comforting expressions, beauty and organizational skills of women would have been welcomed.
Overall I thought the book was a good read. At the time I am writing this the book is still available to be downloaded for free. Since this is Amazon it won’t last long but maybe this will give you a chance to grab a good book at a great deal!