It is with great pleasure to have Jocelyn Green on Infinite Characters today. She has been instrumental in helping me with the Military Ministries series I am running on my Living the Body of Christ blog, in conjunction with posts on this site. Her novel, Wedded to War,is due out July 1, 2012. I asked her to tell us about her book as well as what inspired her to write about those impacted by war.
By Jocelyn Green (www.jocelyngreen.com)
About the Book:
It’s April 1861, and the Union Army’s Medical Department is a disaster, completely unprepared for the magnitude of war. A small group of New York City women, including 28-year-old Charlotte Waverly, decide to do something about it, and end up changing the course of the war, despite criticism, ridicule and social ostracism. Charlotte leaves a life of privilege, wealth—and confining expectations—to be one of the first female nurses for the Union Army. She quickly discovers that she’s fighting more than just the Rebellion by working in the hospitals. Corruption, harassment, and opposition from Northern doctors threaten to push her out of her new role. At the same time, her sweetheart disapproves of her shocking new strength and independence, forcing her to make an impossible decision: Will she choose love and marriage, or duty to a cause that seems to be losing?
An Irish immigrant named Ruby O’Flannery, who turns to the unthinkable in the face of starvation, holds the secret that will unlock the door to Charlotte’s future. But will the rich and poor confide in each other in time?
About the Inspiration:
When people ask me where I get ideas for my novels, I tell them it’s pretty easy—history is already full of fascinating characters and dramatic events. With a little imagination, new story lines come to life.
Today I’d like to share with you three real women who inspired my upcoming Civil War novel, Wedded to War. I want you to fall in love with my fictional characters, but I also hope you will grow to respect the real people in the novel, as well. I am convinced that each of them felt ordinary, like you and me, but they did extraordinary things and should be remembered for them.
1) Dorothea Dix. Social reformer Dorothea Dix went straight to Washington within a week of war breaking out and didn’t leave until she had a meeting with President Lincoln himself. Her goal: for the government to allow women to be nurses. It was a shocking suggestion, for nurses in hospitals up until that time had all been male. Proper Victorian women could not be expected to touch a strange man’s body, even if he was sick or wounded—or so society believed.
Yet the numbers alone were enough to convince Lincoln he needed help. At the start of the war, the U.S. Army Medical Department had a total of 28 surgeons, and no general hospital. Lincoln gave permission, and made Dix the Superintendent of Female Nurses. She had the authority to provide nurses to the army, and she wanted to be taken seriously. So her requirements for women nurses were stringent: they must be married, at least 30 years of age, of good health and character. They must not wear hoops under their skirts, ruffles, bows or jewelry. She was even known for turning away women because they were not homely enough. (Pretty women were accused of bringing out the men’s “natural desires.”) Even so, Dix was bombarded with applicants.
Readers of Wedded to Warwill meet Dorothea Dix, or “Dragon Dix” as she was commonly called, in the novel.
2) Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. An English immigrant, Dr. Blackwell was the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States, and ran an infirmary for women and children near the slums of New York City. When the Civil War broke out, she realized the Union army needed a system for distributing supplies and organized four thousand women into the Women’s Central Association of Relief (WCAR). The WCAR grew into chapters around the county, and this body systematically collected and distributed life-saving supplies such as bandages, blankets, food, clothing and medical supplies.
Blackwell also partnered with several prominent male physicians in New York City to offer a one-month training course for 100 women who wanted to be nurses for the army. This was the first formal training for women nurses in the country. Once they completed their training, they were sent to Dix for placement at a hospital.
By July 1861, the WCAR prompted the government to form a national version—the United States Sanitary Commission, the forerunner of the Red Cross. And it all started because Dr. Blackwell decided to mobilize the women of the country to help the Union.
Dr. Blackwell plays a major role in Wedded to War.
3) Georgeanna Woolsey. At 28 years old, Georgeanna should not have been allowed to serve the army as a nurse, but she got through the application process anyway. Against her mother’s and sisters’ wishes, she was one of the 100 women trained in New York City to be a nurse. Not content to sit in a parlor and knit or scrape lint, she was eager to go where the fighting was, to get her hands dirty in a way she had never been allowed to before as a wealthy, privileged woman.
Georgeanna wrote many letters and accounts of her experiences, including this:
“Some of the bravest women I have ever known were among this first company of army nurses. . . . Some of them were women of the truest refinement and culture; and day after day they quietly and patiently worked, doing, by order of the surgeon, things which not one of those gentlemen would have dared to ask of a woman whose male relative stood able and ready to defend her and report him. I have seen small white hands scrubbing floors, washing windows, and performing all menial offices. I have known women, delicately cared for at home, half fed in hospitals, hard worked day and night, and given, when sleep must be had, a wretched closet just large enough for a camp bed to stand in. I have known surgeons who purposely and ingeniously arranged these inconveniences with the avowed intention of driving away all women from their hospitals.
“These annoyances could not have been endured by the nurses but for the knowledge that they were pioneers, who were, if possible, to gain standing ground for others. . . “*
Georgeanna Woolsey is the inspiration for my main character in Wedded to War, Charlotte Waverly. Two of Georgeanna’s sisters, Eliza and Abigail, inspired the fictional sisters Alice and Isabelle Waverly, as well.
*Bacon, Georgeanna Woolsey and Eliza Woolsey Howland, My Heart Toward Home: Letters of a Family During the Civil War. Roseville, Minnesota: Edinborough Press, 2001 (81).
Military Ministries Posts:
Jocelyn Green, the wife of a former Coast Guard officer, is an award-winning author, freelance writer, and editor. She is the author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (Moody 2008), and Faith Deployed . . . Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (Moody 2011), along with contributing writers. She is also co-author of Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq/Afghanistan (AMG Publishers 2009). Her first novel, Wedded to War, will release from River North (an imprint of Moody Publishers) in July 2012. Visit her at www.jocelyngreen.com.