Woman's Relief Corps
The Woman's Relief Corps (W.R.C.) is the official women's auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, recognized in 1883. The W.R.C. is one of the many women's organizations that were founded after the American Civil War. In 1879 a group of Massachusetts women started a "secret" organization and its members were to be women who were loyal to the North during the Civil War. From 1879, the Woman's Relief Corps held as the primary means to identify women who were eligible to become members was remaining loyal to the Union. It didn't matter where the applicants lived during the Civil War as long as they could prove loyal to the Union. While it might be easy to assume that this organization was only for white women, there were many Posts across the country that had African-American women as members. The only challenge identifying these women is that the Woman's Relief Corps records do not specify the races of its members very often. The organization was designed to assist the GAR, promote and help run Memorial Day (alongside the GAR), petition the federal government for nurses pensions, and promote patriotic education.
Rules and Regulations
Being the official auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, the Woman's Relief Corps could not just operate as it wished or do whatever it pleased. The founding members of the WRC had to write rules and regulations that the GAR would approve of and also ran along similar lines of what the GAR was doing. The Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Woman's Relief Corps stipulated three main objectives. The third of these objectives was to "maintain true allegiance to the United States of America" and teach patriotism and "love of country."
State/Territory Departments and Posts
The numbers of state and territory departments and posts changed regularly from year to year. In 1892, the WRC was made up of forty-five departments, provisional departments, and detached corps of various territories and states. There was a combined total of 2,797 corps (chapters) across the country. In 1892, the WRC also had 98,209 members.
Early on in the creation of the WRC, Memorial Day was used to teach patriotism and nationalism to children of all ages across the North (there was an effort in the South, but there was a great deal of resistance). The members of the Woman's Relief Corps with the assistance of children would make floral wreaths and place them alongside American Flags at the graves of Union veterans and nurses who died during and since the Civil War. The members of the GAR and WRC viewed Memorial Day as a holy day, but by 1915, the organizations were combating the view that Memorial Day was now a holiday and the memory of the Civil War began to dwindle.
- Janney, Caroline (2013). Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 123.
- Woman's Relief Corps (1894). Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Woman's Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic. Boston: E.B. Stillings and Co. p. 3.
- Woman's Relief Corps (1892). Journal of the Tenth National Convention. Boston: E.B. Stillings and Co. pp. 507–511.
- Woman's Relief Corps (1885). Proceedings of the Third National Convention. Boston: E.B. Stillings and Co. pp. 110, 120.
- Woman's Relief Corps (1918). Journal of the Thirty-Sixth National Convention. Washington, D.C.: The National Tribune Company. p. 77.