Louisa May's Battle

How the Civil War Led to Little Women (2013)
Louisa May's Battle


Louisa May Alcott fit the army's requirements to be a nurse during the Civil War: be at least thirty years old, plain in appearance, unmarried, strong, and two letters about her character.  Many people disapproved of women working as nurses during this time; most nurses were men.  When Louisa arrived at the hospital where she would work, she discovered "a breeding ground for germs--overcrowded, damp, dark, airless, its broken windows nailed shut and blocked with curtains to keep out the cold."  She took care of patients who were suffering from measles, pneumonia, and typhoid fever.  Then, after The Battle of Fredericksburg, she discovered the horrors of war as she saw the wounded men. 

Three weeks into her work Louisa became seriously ill with typhoid fever.  A stubborn woman, she refused to leave, until her father came to take her home.  She was ill for two full months.  After her illness Louisa took up writing full time in an effort to raise money to pay bills and support her family.  When asked to write a "girl's" book, she was skeptical but dashed it off.  It became the bestseller known as Little Women

An author's note at the end of the book tells about other well known women who worked in medicine during the 1800s such as Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, and Elizabeth Blackwell. 

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