Spanish-American War Nurses

It’s become a little bit easier to research Spanish-American War nurses. The National Archives Catalog now identifies 761 women for whom there are correspondence files, primarily for those who wanted to obtain government benefits based on their service. These files are in the series, “Correspondence Relating to the Service of Spanish-American War Contract Nurses, 1898-1939,” which is in Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army). The files themselves are not online, but copies can be requested from archives1reference@nara.gov.

To search for a specific person in the Catalog, you have two options. One option is to click on the catalog link that says “761 file unit(s) described in the catalog.” The files are in alphabetical order.

Here are the first four files:Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 6.48.44 PM.png

The second option is to click on the button that says “Search within this series” THEN replace the *.* in the search bar with the surname of interest. Then click on the magnifying glass icon to perform the search. (Yes, that is not an intuitive process.)

Additional records about Spanish-American War nurses in RG 112 include “Personal Data Cards of Spanish-American War Contract Nurses, 1898-1939” (NARA staff has a list of nurses included in that series) and “Registers of Service of Spanish-American War Contract Nurses, 1898-1900.”

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Women in the Civil War

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When we think of the Civil War, the image that likely immediately springs to mind is that of thousands of men in uniform clashing in epic battles, such as at Gettysburg.

Forgotten are the thousands of women who performed tedious, dirty, inglorious tasks–hospital matrons, hospital nurses, laundresses, cooks, and others. They were there, too, on both sides of the conflict.

Documenting their presence, identity, and contributions, is infuriatingly difficult, however, due to the paucity of records that were kept–or retained. A new article,
“Union Army Laundresses,” NGS Magazine, Vol. 42, No. 3 (July-Sept. 2016): 33-37, breaks new ground by outlining research strategies for documenting the service of hospital laundresses, fort and post laundresses, and camp laundresses.

Most of these women likely came from the poorer end of the economic spectrum. They included African-Americans as well as Caucasians. Their efforts deserved to be better remembered, and I hope this article will encourage research.