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Maine Memory Network

Rebecca Usher, Civil War Nurse

This Exhibit Contains 10 Items
1
Ellis B. Usher home, Hollis, ca. 1900

Ellis B. Usher home, Hollis, ca. 1900

Item 1487 info
Maine Historical Society

Rebecca Usher was the daughter of Ellis Baker Usher and Hannah Lane.

The oldest of four sisters, she studied and later taught French at the Ursuline Convent in Three Rivers, Canada.

By the age of 20 she had returned to Maine.

Little is known of Rebecca's days before the war, but she likely occupied herself with teaching and managing the family estate.


2
Rebecca Usher, Hollis, ca. 1900

Rebecca Usher, Hollis, ca. 1900

Item 4170 info
Maine Historical Society

Rebecca Usher (1821-1919), a native of Hollis, as she looked in about 1900, nearly half a century after her Civil War service.


3
Call to arms, Portland, 1861

Call to arms, Portland, 1861

Item 5382 info
Maine Historical Society

Lincoln's call to arms in 1861 aroused the passions of men and women alike. Resolved to protect the Union, vast numbers of men shipped off to battle.

Left on the home front, women assumed many new responsibilities. They went to work in factories, took over the duties of the family business, and began organizing relief efforts.


4
Battle of Antietam map, 1862

Battle of Antietam map, 1862

Item 5480 info
Maine Historical Society

Recruitment of Union nurses began in earnest after the Battle of Antietam in 1862. Forty-year-old Rebecca Usher, like many others, was eager to serve.


5
Major General G. B. McClellan and wife, 1862

Major General G. B. McClellan and wife, 1862

Item 5247 info
Maine Historical Society

In spite of intense demand for nursing services, many women had difficulty securing a position.

Women generally were considered too frail or emotionally unstable. Victorian standards frowned upon women who ventured beyond the traditional boundaries of home and family.


6
U.S. Hospital, Georgetown, D.C.

U.S. Hospital, Georgetown, D.C.

Item 5263 info
Maine Historical Society

Usher's duties consisted primarily of supportive nursing activities such as supervising meals, allocating clothing, and distributing supplies.

She took most pleasure in her role as caretaker and companion to the wounded -- talking to soldiers, or reading and writing letters back home.


7
Concert Program, Maine Camp Hospital Association

Concert Program, Maine Camp Hospital Association

Item 5389 info
Maine Historical Society

Back in Maine, Rebecca' Usher's sisters, Ellen, Martha, and Jane, were active raising money and supplies.

Through the Buxton and Hollis Soldier's Aid Society and the Maine Camp Hospital Association they provided regular shipments of clothing, bandages, vegetables, crackers, and tobacco.


8
Isaac W. Starbird, Litchfield, ca. 1862

Isaac W. Starbird, Litchfield, ca. 1862

Item 5213 info
Maine Historical Society

In January 1865, after 18 months at Chester, Usher signed on with the Maine Camp Hospital Association in City Point, Virginia. The organization's mission was focused specifically on serving the needs of the "Maine Boys."


9
Ruth Mayhew, Portland, ca. 1860

Ruth Mayhew, Portland, ca. 1860

Item 5198 info
Maine Historical Society

At City Point, Usher joined Ruth Mayhew of Portland at the headquarters of the Maine Agency.

The women provided a place for Maine soldiers to come for food, supplies, and companionship.

They also traveled throughout the hospital wards, visiting the sick and wounded from Maine regiments, taking them extra rations of food whenever possible.


10
Rebecca N. Usher, Hollis, ca. 1885

Rebecca N. Usher, Hollis, ca. 1885

Item 5215 info
Maine Historical Society

At war's end, Usher returned to Maine where she tended to the family estate until her death in 1912.

She was one of 20,000 women who worked in Union military hospitals during the war. Their dedication and achievements provided incalculable aid and comfort.

Further, the value of women's contributions resulted in significant consequences for society at large. By succeeding in what was previously a male domain, women like Rebecca took an important step toward greater social, economic, and political equality.


This Exhibit Contains 10 Items