Date of Award

Summer 2003

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Marten, James

Second Advisor

Hay, Carla


The Civil War affected methods of American benevolence causing personal charitable activities that were feminine in nature to give way to more scientific, masculine approaches. This dissertation studies the wartime aid efforts in Wisconsin. Newspapers, the census records, pioneer histories, letters and diaries provided evidence of the charitable work carried out in the state before, during and after the war. The rhetoric that informed the work, the methods employed, and information about the workers themselves helps to identify change and continuity in charitable practices. Two distinct patterns of activity were identified. One echoed the methods of the business world and the other was a personal and immediate reaction to observed need. The two approaches were exemplified by Cordelia Harvey of Madison and Henrietta Colt of Milwaukee. The dual nature of the Wisconsin response helped to make the state an important cog in the Union war machine. In the postwar years, the women of Wisconsin clung to charitable methods that they knew, continuing traditional procedures of care for the orphans and soldiers, while national, masculine organizations fought to control the work.



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