Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

The Woman's Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic

 

Introduction by Mary M. North

When the war cloud hangs darkly over a land, then is the strength of woman made perfect, and she is ready with the kindly ministrations which can only come from the sympathetic hand of the home-maker, the mother, wife, sister, daughter, sweetheart, the loyal woman.

When the dove of peace had taken its departure from our own fair land, and the boom of cannon was heard upon that fateful day in April, '61, then there arose the need for the kindly ministrations of woman, and as ever, she was ready with a response, and everywhere little bands gathered, or a woman alone did "what she could," for those who had answered their country's call.

Not only did she put her hand to the plow, and start the loom with its many bobbins, harvest the crops which she had laboriously planted and tended, but she also sewed, picked lint, made bandages, and knitted socks and numberless other things for the men and boys at "the front."

Societies sprang up and worked steadily all through the Civil War, and even when peace was declared, many found that their work was not done, for there were maimed and invalid veterans to care for, there were widows and orphans who needed succor, and homes had to be provided for hundreds who had no loved ones to look after them.

With the call of duty ever before them they could not disband, and all over the north, the east, and the west, they were still working when their ability and help were recognized by a veteran who was at the head of the Grand Army of the Republic, Paul Van Der Voort, commander-in-chief.

An invitation was sent out to all loyal women all over the country to assemble at Denver, July 25, 26, 1883, to perfect a National Order, which should include within its folds loyal women from every state in the Union, who were willing to unite in a fraternity which should be of assistance to the Grand Army of the Republic, in all their works of beneficence.

The National Organization was effected at the Denver meeting, and recognized as the auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic in accordance with a resolution by that body passed in Indianapolis, in 1881:

"Resolved, That we approve of the project entertained of organizing a 'Woman's National Relief Corps. ' Resolved, That such 'Woman's Relief Corps' may use, under such title, the words, 'Auxiliary to the G.A.R.' by special endorsement of the Grand Army of the Republic, June 15, 1881."

They were accepted, and left free to work for the veterans in their own way, which as time has fully proven has been wise one.

Among those present at the Denver meeting

Florence Barker
Mrs. Kate Brownlee Sherwood
Mrs. E. Fuller
Mrs. Lizabeth A. Turner
Mrs. E. K. Stimson
Emily Gardner
Mrs. J. M. Telford
Mrs. I. S. Bangs
Mrs. Clark
Mrs. McNeir
Mrs. Hugg
Mrs. Charles

The officers elected

National President, Mrs. K Florence Barker, Maiden, Massachusetts
National Senior Vice President, Mrs. Kate Brownlee Sherwood, Ohio.
National Junior Vice President, Mrs. E, K. Stimson, Denver, Colorado
Colors National Secretary, Mrs. Sarah E. Fuller, East Boston, Massachusetts
National Inspector, Mrs. Emily Gardner, Denver, Colorado.
National Chaplain, Mrs. Mattie B. Moulton, Laconia, New Hampshire
National Conductor, Mrs. P. S, Runyan, Warsaw, Indiana.
National Guard, Mrs. J. W. Beatson, Rockford, Illinois.
National Corresponding Secretaries, Mrs. Mary J. Telford. Denver Colorado.
Mrs. Ellen Pay, Topeka, Kansas.

At this first meeting it was voted that all loyal women eligible to membership, and the growth of the organization shown the wisdom of the vote.

Charter Members, Woman's Relief Corps

Emma B. Alrich, Cawker City, Kansas
America Anderson, Denver, Colorado
Lizzie Anderson, Topeka, Kansas
Helen S. Bangs, Waterville, Maine
E. Florence Barker, Maiden, Massachusetts
Jane W. Beatson, Rockford, Illinois
Mary Berwick, Denver, Colorado
Louise V. Bryant, Washington, DC
Mary L. Carr, Longmont, Colorado
Emily T. Charles, Washington, DC
Annie W. Clark, Columbus, Ohio
Frances A. Collar, Denver, Colorado
Sarah E. Devendorf, Topeka, Kansas
Jennie Fensky, Topeka. Kansas
Margaret Freeman, Denver, Colorado
Sarah E. Fuller, East Boston, Massachusetts
Emily Gardner, Denver, Colorado
Marion A. Gillis, Cleveland, Ohio
Maria F. Gray Pitman, Denver, Colorado
Harriet L. Heard, Denver, Colorado
Augusta B. Henderson, Denver, Colorado
Kate Hobart, Rockford, Illinois
Olive Hogle, Denver, Colorado
Mary A. Ingersoll, Denver, Colorado
Harriet B. Jeffries, Denver, Colorado
Mary E Lanning, Columbus, Ohio
Mary E. Lattin, Denver, Colorado
Julia A. Lynd, Denver, Colorado
Ella McCammon, Carthage, Ohio
Emma K. McCammon, Carthage, Ohio
Nora McIntyre, Denver, Colorado
Lottie M. Meyers, Canton, Ohio
Henrietta F. Mills, Denver, Colorado
Amelia A. Moore, Youngstown, Ohio
Henrietta Norton, Rockford. Illinois
Frances Elliott Olney, Warsaw, Indiana
Ellen M. Pay, Topeka, Kansas
Angenette Peavy, Denver, Colorado
Josephine L. Peavy, Denver, Colorado
Frances S. Runyan, Warsaw, Indiana
Helen M. Santmeyer, Carthage, Ohio
Louise E. Sherman, Colo. Springs, Colorado
Kate B. Sherwood, Toledo, Ohio
Lenore K. Sherwood, Toledo, Ohio
Mary A. Stimson, Denver, Colorado
Lizzie M. Tarbell, Denver, Colorado
Mary Jewett Telford, Denver, Colorado
Mary Timmerman, Leipsic, Ohio
Lizabeth A. Turner, Boston, Massachusetts

Mesdames all of Denver Colorado

H. B. Ayers
F. A. Driscoll
C. R Hanly
S. D. Hunt
J. F. Lather
W. H. Leavens
W. H. Savage
S. O. Ver Plank
H. L. Wadsworth

The Woman's Relief Corps is now the largest beneficent and patriotic organization of women in the world, their membership at last report being about 166,000.

They have spent in relief for the veteran or his dependent ones since organizing, more than three and a half millions of dollars, and upon their twenty-fifth anniversary, presented the Grand Army of the Republic with $5,000, and every year a gift of $1,000 is made for their, permanent fund.

At the last convention of the Woman's Relief Corps the treasurer reported $27,267.18 as the total assets, with no liabilities.

At that convention it was voted, to set aside $3,000 for the Grand Army of the Republic, subject to any call of the commander-in-chief for aid of needy veterans; $2,000 for the aid of army nurses who do not receive pensions, and by reason of advanced age cannot provide for themselves the comforts they need; $1,000 for a memorial tablet at Andersonville Park upon which is to be inscribed the source from which the government received its sacred trust of that hallowed ground.

The Woman's Relief Corps has owned very much valuable real estate, notably Andersonville Park, Andersonville, Georgia, and the National W. R. C. Home, in Madison, Ohio, but the latter was turned over to the state of Ohio as a gift, several years ago. Last year Andersonville Park was also turned over to the government as a gift free of encumbrance. The way the Woman's Relief Corps acquired this property is interesting: The department of Georgia Grand Army of the Republic, purchased the old prison site, of the owners, but found that as their number was growing less year by year, and as it required a great deal of money to keep up the place, it would be better for them to offer it to the auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic. When the Woman's Relief Corps was in annual session in St. Paul, Minn., in 1896, representatives of the Georgia Grand Army came before them, and offering the old prison, asked them to accept the gift and keep it from desecration. The women accepted it as a sacred trust, and immediately appointed Mrs. Lizabeth A. Turner, of Massachusetts, as chairman of a board to beautify the grounds and make a park of them. A house for a caretaker was needed, and as the women did not want to build it within the old stockade, more land was purchased making the acreage within the enclosure about eighty-seven. A ten-room house was erected, a caretaker installed, and then the tedious process of making a park was begun. Bermuda grass was planted root by root, a pear and pecan orchard set out, and a rose garden planted, with rose bushes sent from almost every state in the Union, and then the desert began literally "to blossom as the rose."

Several states were given ground upon which to erect monuments to their sons. These were Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. Mrs. Turner having died while in discharge of her duty, the Woman's Relief Corps also erected a monument to her memory in the park. This beautiful spot, the mecca for all the country side every Sabbath, and for the nation upon Memorial Day, was last year accepted by the government, and this year upon May 30, the memorial tablet set up by the donors, was unveiled, in the presence of a vast concourse of people, Mrs. Sarah D. Winans, chairman of the Andersonville Board, presenting it to the National President of the Woman's Relief Corps, Mrs. Belle C. Harris, who in turn presented it to the government through Captain Bryant, superintendent of the Andersonville Cemetery. Upon the tablet are the names of the incorporators of the Woman's Relief Corps, Mrs. Sarah D. Winans, Mrs. Jennie E. Wright, Mrs. Kate B. Sherwood, Mrs. Cora Day Yound, Mrs. Mary C. Wentzell, Mrs. Mary M. North, Mrs. Sarah E. Phillips, Mrs. Lizabeth A. Turner, Miss Clara Barton and Mrs. Allaseba M. Bliss. Also the names of the Board of Trustees for 1909-10, Mrs. Sarah D. Winans, Mrs. Abbie A. Adams, Mrs. Allaseba M. Bliss, Mrs. Sarah E. Fuller, Mrs. Carrie R. Read, and the names of the committee on transfer to the government, Mrs. Kate E. Jones, Mrs. Kate B. Sherwood, Mrs. Mary M. North and Mrs. Mary L. Gilman.

The aims and objects of the Woman's Relief Corps are:

"To specially aid and assist the Grand Army of the Republic, and to perpetuate the memory of their heroic dead.

To assist such Union veterans as need our help and protection, and to extend needful aid to their widows and orphans. To find them homes and employment, and assure them of sympathy and friends. To cherish and emulate the deeds of our army nurses, and of all loyal women who rendered loving service to our country in her hour of peril.

To maintain true allegiance to the United States of America; to inculcate lessons of patriotism and love of country among our children and in the communities in which we live; and encourage the spread of universal liberty and equal rights to all.

This organization was the first to introduce the salute to the flag in the public schools, and to make the observance of Flag Day general, by preparing and carrying out suitable programs.

There are two salutes to the flag taught in the schools, the one for the older scholars being, "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands; one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The other is taught the younger pupils, and is, "I give my head and my heart to God and my country, one country, one language, one flag."

The Woman's Relief Corps has been instrumental in having flag laws passed in many states, and through their efforts an appropriation was made by Congress for flags for the school houses of the District of Columbia, the writer of this having made the first draft of the bill which was put in shape by Mrs. Belva A. Lockwood and presented to Congress. Upon the roster of this order are the names of women in the highest walks of life, and any who are loyal and of good moral character are welcome to the ranks of those who are banded together for such patriotic work as that of the Woman's Relief Corps.

Those who have served as National President, National Secretary and National Treasurer since the organization are the following:

National Presidents National Secretaries National Treasurers
E. Florence Barker
Kate B. Sherwood
Sarah E. Fuller
Elizabeth D'Arcy Kinne
Emma Stark Hampton
Charity Rusk Craig
Annie Wittenmyer
Mary Sears McHenry
Sue A. Pike Sanders
Margaret Ray Wickins
Sarah C Mink
Emma R. Wallace
Lizabeth A. Turner
Agnes Hitt
Sarah J. Martin
Flo Jamison Miller
Harriet J. Bodge
Mary L. Carr
Calista Robinson Jones
Lodusky J. Taylor
Sarah D. Winans
Fanny R Minot
Abbie Asenath Adams
Carrie R. Sparklin
Kate E. Jones
Mary L. Gilman
Jennie Iowa Berry
Belle C Harris
Sarah E. Fuller
Emma D. Sibley
Eleanor B. Wheeler
Nellie G. Backus
Armilla A. Cheney
Hettie M. Nichols
Abbie Lynch
Hannah R. Plimpton
Ella Cobean
Flora Preston Hogbin
Sarah E. Phillips
Jennie Bross
Harriette L. Reed
Ida S. McBride
Mary H. Shepherd
Mattie Jamison Tippett
Charlotte E. Wright
Fannie D. W. Hardin
Mary Ellen Conant
Ada E. May
Jennie S. Wright
Helen McGregor Ayers
Mary R. Morgan
Belle C. Kimball
Eliza Brown Daggett
Maria W. Going
Georgia Wade McClellan
Ida Wilson Moore
Lizabeth A. Turner
Lizabeth A. Turner
Lizabeth A. Turner
Lizabeth A. Turner
Lizabeth A. Turner
Lizabeth A. Turner
Armilla A. Cheney
Armilla A. Cheney
Armilla A. Cheney
Armilla A. Cheney
Armilla A. Cheney
Armilla A. Cheney
Isabelle T. Bagley
Isabelle T. Bagley
Isabelle T. Bagley
Isabelle T. Bagley
Sarah E. Phillips
Sarah E. Phillips
Sarah E. Phillips
Sarah E. Phillips
Isabelle T. Bagley
Sarah E. Phillips
Charlotte E. Wright
Charlotte E. Wright
Charlotte E. Wright
Charlotte E. Wright
Charlotte E. Wright
Charlotte E. Wright

 

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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