Early Illinois Women

Mary Jane Safford, 1834-1891

Mary Jane Safford was born in the state of Vermont in 1834. Her family moved to southern Illinois while she was a child. She earned teaching qualifications and began her career as a teacher near Cairo.

In 1861, the Civil War focused military attention on Cairo and the surrounding area. Cairo, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, was considered of strategic importance because the rivers were a primary means of transportation. The Cairo area became the site of several military hospitals serving wounded soldiers. Mary Jane, along with Mother Bickerdyke and others, nursed wounded soldiers at the hospitals.

Following the war, Mary Jane earned a medical degree and opened a practice in Chicago. Poor health forced her to retire about 1886.


  1. Witter, Evelyn and David R. Collins. 1976. Illinois Women: Born to Serve. Illinos Federation of Women's Clubs.

Contributing Library:

John A. Logan College

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