First Annual Report of the Ladies' Association for Soldiers' Relief of the United States

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First Annual Report of the Ladies' Association for Soldiers' Relief of the United States


By: Ladies' Association for Soldiers' Relief of the United States

Date: July 28, 1863

Source: First and Second Annual Reports of the Ladies' Association for Soldiers' Relief of the United States. Philadelphia: Sherman & Co., Printers, 1863. Available at 〈〉 (accessed March 28, 2006).

About the Author: In 1862, a group of ladies organized themselves as the Ladies' Association for Soldiers' Relief, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Their objectives were to give aid to sick and wounded soldiers, visit hospitals housing soldiers, and provide financial support for soldiers—if needed and available.


The U.S. Civil War shocked and divided the nation on personal and political levels. Although slavery ended with the conclusion of the war, other national reforms, campaigns, and social agendas arose from the conflict. One group that was organized as a direct result of the war is the Ladies' Association for Soldiers' Relief in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Ladies' Association for Soldiers' Relief was not a unique organization for Philadelphia, nor was it a new area in the activities of women. During the American Revolutionary War, the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, active from about 1780 to 1781, helped organize women's activities for the revolutionary cause. During the Revolution, women's organizations were responsible for boycotting of British goods, reporting and hounding merchants for hoarding goods, and creating "sewing circles." These sewing groups gave women a chance to gather and socialize, but they also made clothing for the troops. Philadelphia was not the only city with such an organization, and similar women's groups could be found in almost every area of the country.

Other women's groups, pre-Reconstruction, fought for abolitionism (the ending of slavery), demanded labor law reforms, argued for prohibition, started the campaign for equal rights, and helped continue the fight for female suffrage.

These women's groups aided society, while also celebrating its social norms. These groups brought women together outside the home, but their actions still occurred within the "cult of domesticity." The cult of domesticity refers to the social theory that women should center their lives around raising happy and healthy families, and creating productive members of society. Thus, these groups continued the Christian tradition of charitable work for women in a way that made working outside the home acceptable and respectable.

The Civil War-era Ladies' Association for Soldiers' Relief continued in the same tradition as its predecessors; however, in addition, the actions of these women focused on sanitary aid, the medical needs of soldiers, and obtaining food, shelter, and transportation for discharged and injured troops.


July 28, 1862. A number of ladies met together at No. 135 South Fifth Street, Philadelphia, and formed themselves into a Ladies' Association for Soldiers' Relief of U.S., the principal objects contemplated being,

  1. That the members, with the sole exception of an Honorary Secretary, shall consist of ladies only.
  2. That committees of members shall, for the present, visit the different wards of the U.S.A. General Hospital, West Philadelphia, for the purpose of ameliorating the condition of the sick and wounded soldiers; and
  3. To make visits, for the above purpose, to the sick and wounded soldiers of the Army of the Potomac in the field, as soon as, and as often as, occasion may render the same advisable.
  4. That the Ladies' Association for Soldiers' Relief of U.S. will receive for distribution from time to time, money and such sanitary stores as may be donated by their friends and by the public.
  5. That the Ladies' Association and its officers may be officially recognized by the Government, the military and medical authorities of the United States, and by the State of Pennsylvania, as well as by the public generally.
  6. That the services, of whatsoever kind, of the officers and members of the Association, shall be wholly voluntary and entirely gratuitious without any pay or pecuniary recompense, other than the necessary traveling and other expenses incurred by them.
  7. That every member shall subscribe one dollar per month, for the incidental advertising expenses of the Association, in addition to an entrance fee of one dollar on her being elevated a member.

BY_LAWS were also duly adopted.

July 30, 1862. A letter of recognition of the Ladies' Association was received from Dr. I. I. Hayes, Surgeon-in-charge of U.S.A. General Hospital, West Philadelphia; and committees of ladies were at once organized, who visited daily, during a period of many months, the various wards of this extensive and well-managed hospital.

Large quantities of delicacies, etc., were distributed by the ladies among the three thousand sick and wounded soldiers in the Satterlee hospital, by the hands of the several committees, facilities being granted to them by Dr. Hayes, and by all the ward surgeons, and the exertions of the ladies being appreciated by the brave sick and wounded patients.

During the fruit season, peaches, apples, etc. were often distributed at the hospital by the President and members of the Association.

Acknowledgements frequently appeared in the public newspapers of large quantities of sanitary stores donated by the public to the Ladies' Association, for distribution.

Occasionally, it would happen that sick soldiers, either on furlough or discharged, would be assisted by the Association with money, or with tickets on the railroads, to their homes in distant states. Sometimes, the Association would detail a nurse, hired by them, to accompany a sick or wounded soldier, who was otherwise too feeble, or crippled, to travel by himself, all the way home to his family, in the interior of the State.

The Association has constantly been in receipt of letters, such as the following, expressive of gratitude to the members, for attentions shown to the patriotic men and who have fought and bled for our country.


After the U.S. Civil War, the actions of groups like the Ladies' Association for Soldiers' Relief of Philadelphia did not go unnoticed. While their predecessors from the American Revolution saw themselves celebrated in patriotic literature for nearly a decade, civil war women also saw themselves honored in print and fiction. In the decades following the Civil War, women's organizations continued to grow, expand, and confront issues of social justice, community safety, and national prosperity.

Ladies groups providing relief to soldiers encouraged the U.S. Congress to release old-age pensions to veterans of the Civil War once the hostilities ended. Initially, these pensions were only granted to Union soldiers, but eventually Confederate soldiers received some assistance. Another important outgrowth of the Civil War women's organizations can be seen in the creation of the American Red Cross. Although Clara Barton (1821–1912) is often credited with "singlehandedly" founding the organization by carrying medical supplies to the front lines and aiding wounded troops, her actions coincided with, and encouraged, those of other women's organizations. These groups may have worked independently from one another, but their common causes ultimately aligned for the benefit of the larger society.



Clinton, Catherine. The Other Civil War: American Women in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Hill and Wang, 1999.

Cott, Nancy F. The Bonds of Womanhood: "Woman's Sphere" in New England, 1780–1835. 2nd edition. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997.

Web sites

The Library of Congress. American Memory. "Women's History." 〈〉 (accessed March 28, 2006).

Living the Legacy: The Women's Rights Movement, 1848–1998. "History of the Movement." 〈〉 (accessed March 28, 2006).

Maryland State Archives. "Patterns of Patriotism." 〈〉 (accessed March 28, 2006).

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First Annual Report of the Ladies' Association for Soldiers' Relief of the United States

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