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Reprint Chronicles Women's Civil War Roles


The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, commonly called the Soldiers Home, in Milwaukee was built to care for Wisconsin's veterans thanks in large part to the work of Wisconsin women during and after the Civil War.
WHI 23678

In 1911 Ethel Alice Hurn gathered first-person accounts of the contributions Northern women made during the Civil War in a Wisconsin Historical Society Press book, 'Wisconsin Women in the War between the States.' This fall, in tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Society Press presents a facsimile edition of Hurn's landmark research, which included personal interviews with Civil War-era women, as well as collecting women's letters, newspaper articles, reports and pamphlets from the soldier's aid societies, fairs and other groups in which women served the war effort.

'Tireless and Courageous Energy'

The cover of "Wisconsin Women in the War between the States"
Long-time superintendent of the Wisconsin Historical Society, Reuben Gold Thwaites, introduced Hurn's original book in 1911 as the sixth selection in a series of Society papers that aimed to record the role Wisconsin played in the War of Rebellion, which had ended just 50 years before. Thwaites noted that Hurn's book captured the "tireless and courageous energy" Northern women poured into the cause. "[T]hey kept the wheels of industry in motion, and thus saved the country from economic ruin. It is probable that future historians of the War may consider this the most important contribution of Northern women to the cause of the Union."

Modern-day Civil War historian and author Lance J. Herdegen, chair of Wisconsin's Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, notes in this new edition, the "important and significant work" of documenting this turning point in the changing role of women in American Society. "[Her] groundbreaking book is welcomed back in print during this 150th anniversary of the American Civil War to be discovered and enjoyed as well as to enlighten a new generation of readers."

About the Author

Ethel Alice Hurn was a student at the University of Wisconsin when she interviewed women who had served the Union cause — on the homefront and near the battlefield — and meticulously gathered documentation on the work of women in an era when women could not vote, hold bank accounts or take a direct role in business. After publishing the book, Hurn became a teacher, securing appointments first in Oshkosh and later in Chicago at Edgewood High School, where she taught for 12 years. No record could be found of any additional publications written by Hurn. She died in Chicago in 1958.

:: Posted November 11, 2013

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