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October 3, 1990

To Bind Up the Wounds: Catholic Sister Nurses in the US Civil War

Author Affiliations

Georgetown University Washington, DC

Georgetown University Washington, DC

JAMA. 1990;264(13):1758. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450130130044

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To Bind Up the Wounds is a comprehensive, historical account of the important role of Catholic sister nurses in the Civil War and their contributions to the development of the American nursing profession. Civil War texts devoted to detailed descriptions of major battles and military strategies pay little attention to the roles of women and nurses in the war. Maher's book provides supportive evidence that Catholic sisters played a major role in caring for the wounded soldier and provided organization and structure to the provision of health care in mid-19th-century America.

The first several chapters discuss the beginnings of communities of sisters in the United States. Sister communities evolved from their European counterparts and were similar in maintaining their commitment to vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience; dedicating their lives to service to others; and living in a community of like-minded women. Most Americans viewed such groups with skepticism and