How the US Civil War Inspired Women to Enter Nursing

Before the Civil War, the majority of hospital nurses – or “stewards” – were men. But the war created a medical crisis that called for more volunteers, and many of the people who answered the call were women.

Of the estimated 620,000 military deaths during the civil war, about two-thirds were due to the disease. If a bullet did not kill a soldier, the infection that developed from a wound could do so; and infectious diseases that spread in war hospitals have ravaged soldiers and medical personnel. Amid this desperate need for medical personnel, women began to volunteer as nurses for wounded soldiers. After the war, women continued to work in medicine; and in 1900, they made up 91 percent of American nurses.

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