Nursing In the
Spanish - -American War

As a result of their work in the Civil War, religious sisters were recognized for providing skilled nursing services. In view of the urgent need for medical assistance in the summer of 1898, it was no surprise when the government called for every nursing sister who could be spared. Official government records indicated that the various orders furnished around 250 sister nurses, with the Daughters of Charity (originally referred to in the United States as Sisters of Charity), providing the majority of nurses. Although members of other orders were represented, their numbers were considerably less.(1)

As in the past, army physicians, while accepting of assistance from religious nursing sisters, were initially reluctant to involve female nurses . Surgeon General Sternberg, echoing past military physicians, believed women were ‘out of place’ in the military. Initially, the army tried to use untrained infantrymen as medical corpsmen. This was a dismal failure as there were few men who volunteered for this duty as it brought few rewards and there was danger from infectious diseases such as typhoid and yellow fever(2(


Contract Nurses

Contract Nurses

Contract Nurses

In order “to supply the approaching necessities of the army, the United State Congress, in April, 1898, at the request of Surgeon General Sternberg., authorized him to employ nurses under contract and made an “appropriation for their payment.”

When the war began, the Nurses Alumni Association of the United States and Canada, petitioned the government allow trained nurses to join the military in order to care for the soldiers. Surgeon General Sternberg  then appointed doctor Anita Newcomb McGee , the vice-President of the Daughters of the American Revolution, to select nurses  for ‘contract’ service in the Army. For their service each received $30 per month plus board and transportation.[ The Army Nurse Corps was one of the important outcomes of the Spanish American War.[(3)

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2) Goldenberg, Gary. 1992.  Nurses of a Different Stripe: A History of the Columbia University School of Nursing 1892 – 1992. Columbia University School of Nursing, . p 49
(3) Roberts, Mary, 1957. The Army Nurse Corps, Yesterday and Today. Publisher The Army Nurse Corps, Washington, D.C.