Helen L. Gilson

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Helen L. Gilson
Born Helen. L. Gilson Osgood
1836
Died 1868

Helen L. Gilson (1836–1868) [1] was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts. She was a nurse during the Civil War. Also known as Helen. L. Gilson Osgood.

Early life[edit]

She began her career in teaching at seventeen as the head assistant of Phillips School in Boston, Massachusetts. She stayed there for a few years until 1858 when throat problems forced her to leave. After, she moved back to Chelsea, Massachusetts where she worked as a governess for her cousins, children of her uncle Frank B. Fay, the mayor of Chelsea.[2]

Participation in the Civil War effort[edit]

Fay took a deep interest in supporting the Civil War, especially in supporting the troops. This was a cause that Gilson became passionate about as well.[3] Hoping to help, Gilson applied for a diploma to Dorothea Dix, the government superintendent of female nurses. She was denied due to age requirements. However, this did not stop her from leaving home to help the soldiers. April 1862, Gilson applied a second time to Dix, though this time in person. Dix offered her a placement at Washington’s Columbian College Hospital. Though the particular job fell through, Gilson volunteered at the hospital anyway.[4] In June 1862, Gilson began working on boats for the Hospital Transport System, a specialized division of the Special Relief Corp to provide medical supplies to hospitals.

When Fay, in his own relief efforts, realized the need for more help at Fort Monroe, he volunteered Gilson. This became her way into the army as a nurse. In order to prepare, Gilson attended lectures in Washington on medical techniques.[5]

Gilson is most known for the work she did in changing the colored hospital in Petersburg, Virginia where the conditions were so terrible, it did not resemble a hospital at all. She advocated for renovations, and when they were approved she aided in the renovations and restructuring of the hospital so well that at one point 900 men were being served from kitchen.[6]

Gilson was known to many as an “angel of mercy”[7] for her work with the soldiers, both white and colored alike. She was known to spend time at the soldiers’ bedsides talking and singing to them to comfort them. She earned the respect of the men she cared for.

After the war[edit]

She left Richmond in July 1865, spent the summer on Long Island to recover from the illnesses she encountered while nursing the sick soldiers, and was home in Chelsea by fall. On October 11, 1866, Gilson married E. Hamilton Osgood in her hometown of Chelsea. Less than two years later on April 20, 1868, she, and her child, died during childbirth at Newton Corner Hospital.[8]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Helen Louise Gilson".Civil War Women Blog. 2008-3-02. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
  2. ^ Logan, Mrs. John. The Part Taken by Women in American History. 331.
  3. ^ Logan, Mrs. John. The Part Taken by Women in American History. 331.
  4. ^ Miller Jr., Edward A. (March 1997): "Angel of light: Helen L. Gilson, army nurse." Civil War History. 43.1 p17.
  5. ^ Miller Jr., Edward A. (March 1997): "Angel of light: Helen L. Gilson, army nurse." Civil War History. 43.1 p17.
  6. ^ Logan, Mrs. John. The Part Taken by Women in American History. 332.
  7. ^ Sherwood, James Manning. Hours at Home, Volume 5. Charles Scribner & Co, 1867. 161
  8. ^ "Helen Louise Gilson".Civil War Women Blog. 2008-3-02. Retrieved 2011-10-12

References[edit]

"Helen Louise Gilson".Civil War Women Blog. 2008-3-02. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
"Helen L. Gilson Osgood". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
Logan, Mrs. John. "The Part Taken by Women in American History." The Perry-Nalle Publishing Co, 1912.
Miller Jr., Edward A. (March 1997): "Angel of light: Helen L. Gilson, army nurse." Civil War History. 43.1 p17.
Sherwood, James Manning. "Hours at Home, Volume 5." Charles Scribner & Co, 1867.

External links[edit]