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Indeed, the work of women seems to be unending, and it is impossible to compute its value. The only feeling evoked by the study of the reports of what is going on all over the country is that of deep gratitude, and of regret that the whole cannot be spread out for the encouragement and inspiration of others, and that so meager an account as this must suffice.
It is strange to remember that all this activity has had its rise in less than a hundred years. The simple story of the first organized charitable work ever done, so far as we know, by women in this country is thus told in an account of the “Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor :"
“ It will be remembered that in the year 1793, the yellow fever made an awful and depopulating visitation to our city, and those who were spared its ravages were left in much distress. Anne Parish, and some other young women, having devoted considerable time and strength in relieving the sufferers, felt called upon to continue their labors when the deadly scourge had passed, as the following minutes, the first on the books, will show :
"'A number of young women, having been induced to believe from observations they have made that they could afford some assistance to their suffering fellow-creatures, particularly widou's and orphans, by entering into a subscription for their relief, visiting them in their solitary dwellings without distinction of nation or color, sympathizing in their afflictions, and, as far as their ability extends, alleviating them, have for this purpose associated together. Their views being humble and funds inconsiderable, yet seeking neither honor nor applause, they only ask a blessing on their feeble efforts, sensible of the obligations they are under to an Almighty Giver for the comforts they enjoy, are desirous of making a grateful acknowledgment by endeavoring to adopt the precept He taught, to visit the sick, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. They propose to nominate a treasurer, to appoint a committee to visit the poor, and discover their necessities either for immediate relief, or to give them employment.'”.
This was in 1795, and it was this same young Quaker woman, Anne Parisii, who, in that, or the following year, believing that “ignorance was one great cause of vice and the calamities attendant thereon, and that a guarded education would tend greatly to the future usefulness and respectability of the rising youth,” with two friends, opened the first charity school for girls in the United States, teaching them “some of the most use
ful branches of learning, viz.: spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic, and sewing."
These two little societies, both founded by one young woman, were the pioneers in the work for the desolate and oppressed now being carried on by hundreds of associations and by thousands of women all over our country, and we can only thank God that so many are seeking “to comfort and help the weakhearted, to raise up those who fall, and to strengthen such as do stand."
CARE OF THE SICK.
HOSPITALS AND TRAINING SCHOOLS FOR NURSES
MANAGED WHOLLY OR IN PART BY WOMEN.
EDNAH DOW CHENEY.
So soon as the human being emerged from barbarism, and life became precious, the restoration of the sick to health must have engaged attention. The original idea of the hospital was wholly charitable, as it was an obvious duty to take care of the sick, who were unable to help themselves, and under many circumstances this work could be better done in an establishment for that special purpose than in a private home.
Such establishments have existed in very early times and in various countries, and women have always borne their part in the work as nurses, if not as physicians or managers.
Although the hospital, in some form, was not unknown before the establishment of the Christian church, yet that church certainly took the care of the sick as a special province, and found in its orders of monks and nuns very convenient instruments for carrying it on. It was an important adjunct of religion, for the mind and heart, during sickness and convalescence, are open to religious and moral influences, and the grateful patient often became a zealous convert to the church which had given him help in the hour of suffering. The old proverb recognized this :
When the Devil was sick, the Devil a monk would be ;
The earliest known hospital for the sick was founded in the latter part of the fourth century at Cæsarea ; St. Chrysostom built one at his own expense at Constantinople, and Fabiola, the friend of St. Jerome, founded one at Rome.
Many of the present great European hospitals, as the “Hotel Dieu” of Paris, “St. Bartholomew" of London, etc., owe their existence to religious foundations, and the sisters of various orders made it their especial work to labor in them.
Women assisted in these good works. In the old hospital of the Savoy in London, thirteen sisters are on the pay roll. “Queen Mary tried to restore this hospital, and the ladies of the court and maidens of honor stored the same with two beds, bedding, and furniture in very ample manner.” The work of the sisters of charity is familiar to all, and Protestants have imitated it by establishing orders of women who devote themselves to the care of the sick.
In addition to the ordinary needs of human life, war brought its large increase of wounds and sickness, which made military hospitals a necessity, and women did not hesitate to follow men to the camp and field to minister to their fellow-beings in distress. In these scenes of war Florence Nightingale began her great work, which has raised nursing to the rank of a skillful profession. Private charity also extended help to the sick, and King James's favorite goldsmith, George Heriot, secured an honorable remembrance in Edinburgh by founding the large hospital which bears his name. Neither has the State forgotten its duty to the sick, not only in providing infirmaries, almshouses, and other institutions, but certainly, in later times, in furnishing hospitals for the poor at the public expense.
In time of war, or when great epidemics devastated cities, the hospitals often became excessively crowded, and offered scenes of misery and horror which justified the dread and disgust felt for them in the popular mind, so that to “die in a hospital” was an expression for the extreme of human misery.
Through all these years women took an active part in hospital work as nurses, and, in the case of infirmaries connected with female convents, must have had charge of the administration, but it is not until our own day that hospitals have been established especially for the benefit of women, and mainly under their own control. As the science of medicine advanced, and physicians were not solitary students but became a body of educated men united in their work and deeply interested in the advancement of their science, the hospital came to be regarded not exclusively as a charity, but also as a school in which the student of medicine could gain experience and knowledge by intimate acquaintance with various forms of disease and the means employed to remove it. This created a vulgar prejudice that the sick were considered only subjects of experiment, without regard to their own good. But, in fact, the constant presence of bodies of intelligent students in hospitals has done much to raise their character and to reform abuses. As Dr. Finlay says, “Clinical teaching benefits the patient, secures careful investigation of his case, and has a bracing effect on the work done in the hospital.”
It is in this relation that hospitals have become especially important to women during the last thirty years.
The woman physician was not wholly unknown in America before this time. Anne Hutchinson, of Boston, was doctor as well as preacher. Ruth Barnaby practiced the profession of midwifery forty years, and this branch of practice was fully recognized as belonging to women.* But while the standard of education for women was very low, these were only individuals carrying out the impulses of their genius or their hearts, having no relation to each other and no thorough systematic education.
When Elizabeth Blackwell took her stand for thorough medical education for women, she felt the imperative need of clinical instruction for them. No hospital in America would give to women students of medicine any opportunity to see the work done in it,
The other hospitals, which have been established since these pioneers, have followed their plans so nearly that but few exceptions need be made to the general account. While I cannot be sure that my list is complete, I give the following names of hospitals known to me, similar in character and methods :
New York Infirmary, 1857. +
The hospital in Chicago, like other promising children of the East transplanted to the West, bas outgrown its parents, and is now the largest institution of its kind in this country, and probably in the world. It has eighty beds.
* See chapter, Woman in Medicine. -Ed.
# The story of the founding of the New York Infirmary, and the New England Hospital for Women and Children, is told in the chapter on Woman in Medicine. -ED.