Sanitary Commission, U.S.
Under the direction of executive secretary Frederick Law Olmsted, the commission proclaimed a deep passion for order and efficiency and insisted that those goals could only be achieved through careful centralized control. Seven thousand local auxiliaries throughout the North raised funds and shipped food, medicine and clothing to ten regional depots. As the financial demands continued, the USSC turned to nearly thirty local sanitary fairs (1863–65), which netted $4.4 million.
The Sanitary Commission can be interpreted as evidence of the emergence of a more centralized, modernizing society. But although many local bodies eventually affiliated with the commission, others sent their own agents into the field. And even those local branches of the “Sanitary” retained some traditional practices.
The USSC also raises interesting questions about wartime gender roles. Although men dominated the national leadership, women made up the vast majority of local volunteers, and Chicagoans Mary Livermore and Jane C. Hoge became central figures in the commission's midwestern branch. Even if the activities of the Sanitary Commission rarely challenged traditional gender roles, the local bodies provided new opportunities for women to hone public skills.
[See also Nurse Corps, Army and Navy; Union Army.]
William Quentin Maxwell , Lincoln's Fifth Wheel: The Political History of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, 1956.
Robert H. Bremner , The Public Good: Philanthropy and Welfare in the Civil War Era, 1980.
J. Matthew Gallman
"Sanitary Commission, U.S.." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sanitary-commission-us
"Sanitary Commission, U.S.." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved October 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sanitary-commission-us
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