Early Illinois Women

Louisa Maertz

Louisa Maertz, 1837-1918, was born in Quincy and lived most of her life in this city. She was considered to be of a "delicate constitution" and yet managed to work in the field hospitals of the Civil War and to travel extensively. She never married and devoted her life to writing and philanthropy. This picture was most likely taken in the early 1890's. The original is in the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County. She is remembered mostly as a Civil War nurse and the author of "New Method for the Study of English Literature" published in 1879.
This photo is of Blessing Hospital, as it originally looked after its 1875 opening. The picture was probably taken in the 1880's. From 1878, the hospital was run by the Board of Lady Managers with the Board of Trustees (mostly male) making the decisions only about the larger financial picture and the grounds.
Miss Maertz was secretary of the Blessing Hospital Board of Lady Managers from 1892-1897. This Board met monthly and at the meetings discussed the funding problems, the cases who requested admission to the hospital, the repairs and equipment needed and applicants for the nursing school. This particular excerpt reads, "Miss Davis made her report. She stated that a second girl was needed [to clean]. She reported two more applicants for the Training School. The meeting adjourned."
This picture of Blessing Hospital includes the addition of 1895. The Maertz Ward was in the lower west side of the new building.
This picture of the Maertz Ward of Blessing Hospital was published in the Annual Report of 1898. The Maertz Ward was endowed by Miss Maertz in memory of her father, who died in 1890.
This is an excerpt from Miss Maertz's article, "Midland War Sketches", published in the Midland Monthly, 3 (1), 1895. She was a published author and had also been written about in the book, Woman's Work in the Civil War: a Record of Heroism, Patriotism and Patience by L.P. Brockett, published in 1868, and in Chicago Woman's News, 3 (4), 1894. The article, "Sketch of Louisa Maertz," by an Old Friend, is about her life, travels, work and writing. By comparing these accounts with her own in Midland Monthly, several facts can be established.

Miss Maertz began nursing the wounded and sick just a few months after the war began in 1861 in the hospitals of Quincy and in her home. She was commissioned as an army nurse late in 1862 and went to Helena Arkansas. Brockett says, "...always cheerful and kind, preserving in the midst of a military camp such gentleness, strength and purity of character that all rudeness of speech ceased in her presence, and as she went from room to room she was received with silent benedictions, or an audible 'God bless you, dear lady,' from some poor sufferer's heart." She traveled with the sick and wounded to the North, went home for a brief recuperation and returned to Vicksburg. It is the diagram of the hospital tents which is shown here from her own article, "Midland War Sketches." She was the only female nurse. All of the other nurses and cooks were convalescents themselves. Her duties included getting water from the creek, making poultices, preparing special diets. The area was quite hot and damp and malaria was present. Once again she took sick and went home. Three months later she was called "to New Orleans to aid in establishing the Soldier's Home...." She worked there on into 1864 when she returned home to rest. Her last post was to care for discharged Andersonville prisoners. Miss Maertz was an untrained nurse who saw her work as a service to humanity.


  1. Brockett, L. P. (1868). Woman's work in the Civil War: A record of heroism, patriotism and patience. Boston: Zeigler, McCurdy & Co.
  2. Kroeter, G. (1996). Quincy women: Ambition, beauty, courage & faith, 1838-1996. Quincy, IL: Author
  3. Maertz, L. (1895). Midland war sketches: IV. Midland Monthly, 3, 79-85.
  4. An Old Friend. (1894). Sketch of Louisa Maertz. Chicago Woman's News, 3, 1-3.

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