White middle and upper class women were the majority component of the hospital relief workforce North and South.

Patriotism aside the majority of women serving in union and confederate hospitals were working classes, and they were paid for their work as cooks, laundresses, matrons, waitresses, seamstresses, chambermaids, and the occasional nurse.  In Southern hospitals alone at least 20% (if not more) of the hospital personnel were slaves hired out by their owners to care for the wounded.  Typically in the North and South literate, well-connected women who entered service were referred to as nurses while working class women lacking literacy were given less impressive job tittles.  Certainly, working class women felt compassion for the ill and wounded, but they also needed to sustain themselves and their families in their men’s absence, or because they were widows seeking respectable employment.

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