The Role of Women In The Civil War
The Woman's Relief Corps
By LUELLA F. BICKFORD
The organization of the National Woman's Relief Corps grew out of a seeming need in the Grand Army of the Republic for a fraternity that would have for its work, to assist the Grand Army in all its labors of charity, and in every to alleviate the distress and suffering of any needy veteran, soldier or sailor of the war of the Rebellion, the membership to embrace the loyal women of every state in the Union.
In Denver, Col., July 25, 1883, this organization-the National Woman's Relief Corps --- was formed under the advice and council of Paul Van Der Voort, then Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Two years after this, in 1885, February 4th, in Rutland, at the Bardwell House, in a little room not more than twelve feet square, the Department of Vermont Woman's Relief Corps had its birth. Mrs. Mina G. Hooker of Brattleboro was the first President. She was installed by the National President --- Mrs. Sarah Fuller of Massachusetts.
From the small beginning, only six corps and about two hundred members, grew the organization as it now stands, with sixty-three corps and a membership on January 1, 1915, of two thousand nine hundred and twenty-three loyal women. At one time in its history there were eighty-five corps, but various causes forced some to disband.
The Vermont Department has been honored by having one National President --- Mrs. Calista R. Jones of Bradford, and one National Secretary --- Mrs. Mary E. Conant of the same town. The Department Presidents, of whom twenty are living, have been fine women, of strong character, loyal women, who have left the impress upon the work accomplished. The first Presidents were truly pioneer workers, amid discouragements they toiled on, today we reap the harvest of that toil and glory in their work well done.
The Woman's Relief Corps aims at a high purpose and must attain results. There is much yet to be done in this vineyard. Each year opens up new avenues of work. Much attention is being given to the Patriotic work, the Patriotic Instructor having this in charge, promoting patriotic education, encouraging a general observance of National Anniversaries, especially Flag Day, June 14th. Many flags have been given schools, Sunday schools, and other orders. Each year the department presents a flag to some school --- usually the one situated in the town where the Convention is held. Second only to Relief Work is the teaching of patriotism, love for the flag.
"My name is as old as the glory of God-
So I came by the name of Old Glory."
The Patriotic Instructor feels the importance that the men and women of the future, those that perhaps are in school today, be taught what the flag means, the price paid for it, and all that it stands for, to have these children realize that the future of this country may depend upon them. The National airs, "America," "Star Spangled Banner," "Columbia," and others, may be made to live in the hearts of this generation, therefore, great stress is laid upon this part of the work.
The Relief Work, the most important work of the Corps, includes the many calls made on the sick and the ones unable to attend the meetings, carrying fruit or flowers, something to cheer up the lonely hours, and in many cases the real relief work-money-from the fund always carried for this purpose by every corps.
Memorial Day is the day set apart as sacred to the soldier dead. The Grand Army of the Republic has given into the hands of the Woman's Relief Corps the work of preparing wreaths of evergreen and spring blossoms, for their use
in decorating the graves of fellow comrades. One by one they cross the mystic borderland and rest by the side of still waters-mustered out-but the memory of their patriotism lingers, "as the twilight lingers after the sun has set." To those who are "waiting 'til the shadows have a little longer grown," comes the sad rite of decorating the graves, graves of men who gave up life for love of country. The motto of this organization is "Fraternity-Charity-Loyalty," --- three grand words. This motto must be an-incentive to be honorable members of an order auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization that in point of numbers and character has no equal on earth, "heroes of three thousand battles by land or sea."
Source: The Vermonter, The State Magazine, Volume 20, 1914, pp., 64-65