Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Mary Livermore and the U.S. Sanitary Commission
Mary Livermore and the U.S. Sanitary Commission

Mary Livermore and the U.S. Sanitary Commission

Mary Livermore (1820–1905) was a Christian philanthropist, abolitionist, and suffragist in nineteenth-century Chicago. As a reporter for the Northwestern Christian Advocate, she was the only female correspondent to cover the 1860 Republican National Convention's nomination of Abraham Lincoln. During the Civil War she played a vital role on the home front, serving as codirector of the Northwestern Branch of the U.S. Sanitary Commission from 1862 to 1865. That experience brought her into association with the most politically conscious women in Illinois and raised her awareness of the legal obstacles that prevented women's public service. In 1869, Livermore founded the Illinois Woman Suffrage Association and served as its first president.

In 1888 Livermore published My Story of the War, where she explained her involvement with the Sanitary Commission during the Civil War:

Organizations of women for the relief of sick and wounded soldiers, and for the care of soldiers' families, were formed with great spontaneity at the very beginning of the war.... When the local aid society of which I was president, merged its existence in that of the Sanitary Commission, I also became identified with it.... Here, day after day, the drayman left boxes of supplies sent from aid societies in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana. Every box contained an assortment of articles, a list of which was tacked on the inside of the lid.... beautifully made shirts, drawers, towels, socks, and handkerchiefs, with “comfort-bags” containing combs, pins, needles, court-plaster, and black sewing-cotton, and with a quantity of carefully dried berries and peaches.