"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2

Monday, June 11, 2012

"She ranks me."

Mary Ann "Mother" Bickerdyke
1817 - 1901


In this month’s Civil War Bivouac, I want to introduce another incredible woman of the Civil War period: Mary Anne Bickerdyke, affectionately known as "Mother" Bickerdyke by the soldiers. This woman was possibly the most resourceful Civil War nurse. Full of character, she pulled no punches when it came to the care of the wounded Union and Confederate soldiers, setting the surgeons and Federal army doctors on edge at times. During the war, she became the chief of nursing under General Grant. She pioneered the nursing core curriculum.

Widowed before the war started, Mother Bickerdyke supported herself and her two sons as a “botanic physician” in Galesburg, Illinois—so advanced for her time, don't you think? Sounds a bit like Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman studying the herbal and plant remedies from the Cheyenne Indians. After the war started, a local physician wrote home to Galesburg about the deplorable and disorganized military hospitals in Cairo, Illinois. The town’s people collected nearly five hundred dollars worth of medical supplies and food, and nominated Mary Ann to deliver it to the military hospital in Cairo. She stayed on there as an “unofficial” nurse.

"I have a commission from the Lord God Almighty to do all I can for every miserable creature who comes in my way; he is always sure of two friends, God and me."
                                                                                 ---Mother Bickerdyke
Mary Ann Bickerdyke knew her mission well.

She gained the admiration of General Ulysses S. Grant. As Grant’s army moved south, down the Mississippi River, Mother Bickerdyke moved too. She set up hospitals wherever needed. It was said that Union General, William T. Sherman, was also very fond of her tireless efforts to help the wounded. It was rumored that she was the “only” woman that he ever allowed in his camp. When General Sherman’s staff came to complain about a hard-headed nurse who disregarded any military procedure, he threw up his hands and stated, “She ranks me. I can’t do a thing in the world.” I find that quite a statement from a tough general.

With the help of the U. S. Sanitary Commission, Mary Ann, also known as the "The Cyclone in Calico," built approximately 200 hospitals and assisted thousands of wounded on roughly 19 battlefields. She was one incredible woman who helped change the face of medicine and hospital care forever.

I hope you enjoyed this month's touch on history. 
I would love to hear what you think of Mother Bickerdyke.

Between you me and the gatepost,


The Mother Bickerdyke Monument
"She ranks me"
Galesburg, Illinois

Down below is a very short youtube about Mother Bickerdyke. Take a peek.


Melissa Tagg said...

I always love your history bits! Fun stuff. And I giggled at the Dr. Quinn reference. I didn't watch much TV growing up, but that's the one show we watched consistently on Saturday nights as a family. And then on Sunday, my church friends and I would all talk about it. We still look back and laugh about how we'd talk about it before Sunday school as if it was like the highlight of the week.

Victoria Lindstrom said...

Thanks for the inspiring peek at the past, Loree. Mother Bickerdyke sounds like she was a wonderful woman - full of faith, compassion, and tenacity!

Gabrielle Meyer said...

I loved this post and I love learning about women in history who defied the odds and stood up and fought against their time and culture to do the things God had put them here to do. Mother Bickerdyke sounds like an amazing woman! Thanks for sharing.

Jessica R. Patch said...

This was so interesting. Have you based a character off of her. I think it'd be neat to read.

I grew up not far at all from Cairo! :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I never heard of this woman before. Thank you for highlighting her contributions to nursing wounded soldiers.

Loree Huebner said...

Melissa: I didn't watch Dr. Quinn when it was on back in the 1990's. Last fall, I recorded it when they showed entire series reruns. I watched the complete series! That show ran like 6 seasons!

Victoria: Mother Bickerdyke felt it was her mission from God. She didn't let anyone get in her way when it came to caring for the wounded.

Gabrielle: Welcome here! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. Mother Bickerdyke certainly was a strong and amazing soul.

Jessica: I haven't based a character off of Mothe Bickerdyke, but I do have a story with a younger woman character who takes care of a wounded soldier - of course, they fall in love.

Susan: This woman basically started the nursing core. She outlined the core values. I love reading about these strong women, their faith, their hope, and their love, in the face of war.

Melissa, Victoria, Gabrielle, Jessica, and Susan, thanks for stopping by. Your comments mean so much.

Melanie N. Brasher said...


Thanks for introducing me to this woman! I love your historical tidbits!

Lynda R Young said...

wow, what an amazing woman. I'd not heard of her before, but I always love hearing about the resourcefulness and strength of people, particularly those who choose to take the difficult path so they can help others.

Loree Huebner said...

Melanie: Glad you enjoyed the post! So nice to see you!

Lynda: She was amazing. Such strength! We never know how much we can do...

Melanie and Lynda, thanks for popping in. I enjoyed reading your comments.

Beth K. Vogt said...

"Cyclone in Calico." Love that!

Rhonda Schrock said...

That's a powerful quote. It challenges me on how I see others - whoever crosses my path. Love this.

Loree Huebner said...

Beth: I love that name too! Cynthia H suggested that we should all be a Cyclone! I agree.

Rhonda: Her words are a challenge to us all.

Beth and Rhonda, thanks for dropping in. Love to hear from you.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

What an incredible woman. I can't even imagine the suffering and horror that she must have witnessed and that she helped to alleviate. I love her quote and the fact that even General Sherman respected her.

Loree Huebner said...

Cynthia: She was incredible! General Sherman did not get in her way. Thanks for stopping by!

Julie Musil said...

Wow, what a cool person. And that quote? Amazing. Thanks for teaching me about an important person I'd never heard of :/

Loree Huebner said...

Julie: She was a peach of a woman.
Thanks for popping in!

Gwendolyn Gage said...

She sounds fascinating! She must have been quite a force to be reckoned with for a general to to step aside! Love "the cyclone in calico", lol! She was obviously dearly loved and respected by the soldiers she served. Very inspiring.