Since it is Women's History Month, we will be posting profiles of women involved in military activities in New Jersey and New Jersey women involved in military activities in other places. Our first is "Molly Pitcher," who, although she was... not born here, we have made an honorary "Jersey Girl."
Molly is perhaps the most famous veteran of the Battle of Monmouth Court House, fought near Freehold, NJ, Although legends and misinformation abound, it appears that “Molly” was a woman named Mary Ludwig Hays. Although her husband, William Hays, was not killed or wounded at Monmouth, and indeed survived the war, she likely did bring water to the gun crew at his artillery piece. Hays died after the war and Mary remarried a man named McCauley. Molly died in 1832 is buried in Carlisle Pennsylvania. A statue in her honor stands in the cemetery by her gravesite.
The image is a fanciful 19th century rendition of Molly at Monmouth. The British infantry never got remotely close to her position.
In another profile in our continuing series for women’s history month profile series we are featuring Harriet Tubman. Although born in Maryland, Tubman was associated with New Jersey early in her Underground Railroad career. She worked in Cape May as a cook in the 1850s to fund her activities and was instrumental in establishing the series of safe houses in the Underground Railroad network across the state. During the Civil War Tubman acted as a spy and scout for the Union army, and gave a “rousing” morale building speech at Camp William Penn, where New Jersey African American soldiers were organized into units.
Our next profile for Women’s History Month is Cornelia Hancock. Born in Hancock’s Bridge in Salem County on February 6, 1840, Hancock accompanied her brother in law, a surgeon, to the Gettysburg battlefield in the aftermath of that battle in July 1863. From then until the end of the war, she served as a nurse with the Army of the Potomac, traveling close behind the lines in the Overland Campaign of 1864, and became known as the “Florence Nightingale of America. Hancock was one of the first Union women to enter Richmond in 1865, served as a teacher of freed slave children in South Carolina through 1875 and then returned north to become one of the first social workers in Philadelphia. She devoted her long life to service to those less fortunate than she, and from nephritis at her home in Atlantic City home on December 31, 1927.
Continuing with our series for Women’s History Month, we are profiling Clara Barton. Barton is not often associated with New Jersey, but she played an important role in the state before she went on to fame during the Civil War and always remembered her stay in the state. Her 1852 visit to an old friend, Mary Norton, then living in Hightstown, led to a teaching job in Bordentown, where she founded one of the first free public schools in the state. As school enrollment expanded to over 600 students, the local school board replaced Barton with a man who was paid more than she was and demoted her to “female assistant.” Unhappy with this state of affairs, she relocated to Washington, DC, in 1854 and took a job with the U.S. Patent Office, where harassment from male fellow employees, no doubt coupled with her Bordentown experience, led her to become an early exponent of feminism.
Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Barton collected food and medical supplies for and nursed sick and wounded men, even visiting the battlefields of Fredericksburg and Antietam. The soldiers she personally delivered clothing, cakes and jellies to included Hart Bodine, a formerly rowdy Bordentown student then serving in Company A of the 6th New Jersey Infantry. Bodine was so touched by Barton’s generosity that after the war he named his first born daughter Clara Barton Bodine. Throughout the war, Barton corresponded with friends in Hightstown, who forwarded packages through her to their sons and husbands at the front and collected money to support her charitable activities for soldiers.
At war’s end Barton, distressed by the lack of information on soldiers who had simply disappeared in the chaos of conflict, founded the “Office of Correspondence with the Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army,” the first American organization dedicated to discovering the fate of those missing in action. She sought information from veterans on their memories of forgotten fates and burials, and, aided by a former Andersonville prisoner, identified most of the dead at Andersonville Prison, where she raised the flag over the cemetery in August, 1865. Clara Barton’s wartime activities led this former New Jersey school teacher to found the American Red Cross. She lived a long and useful life and died in 1912. Barton is buried in Oxford, Massachusetts. Her original Bordentown schoolhouse has been renovated and is open for visitation.
(Sign from her "missing soldiers" office)
(Monument to her at Andersonville POW camp in Georgia)
Clara Louise Maas
Continuing with our Women's History Month program, we would like to honor Clara Louise Maas.
Born on June 28, 1876 to German immigrant parents in Newark, Clara Louise Maas graduated from the Newark German Hospital School of Nursing and became an army contract nurse during the Spanish American War. In 1900, while serving in Cuba after the war, Maas volunteered to be bitten by a mosquito in an experiment in the effort to find a cure for yellow fever. She contracted yellow fever as a result and died on August 24, 1901. Initially buried in Havana, her body was returned to Newark, where she was buried in Fairmount Cemetery with military honors. Over the years, most likely as a result of the anti-German hysteria of World War I, Newark German Hospital became Newark Memorial Hospital and then Lutheran Memorial Hospital. In 1952 it was renamed Clara Maas Hospital in her memory. The hospital is currently in Belleville. Her grave was initially marked by a plain government-issue headstone, which was replaced after about twenty-five years by a more elaborate memorial.
(Photo of grave marker courtesy of Gordon Bond.)
Corporal Concetta Ferreiuolo
In another Women's History Month installment, we would like to pay tribute to all the NJ women who participated in WWII, both on the home front and in the services. One little known NJ aspect of the WAAC (later WAC) program was a communica...tions school in Newark, run by the United Television Institute. This program was printed for the August 20, 1943 graduating class, which included a number of New Jerseyans. The woman on the right in the photo is Corporal Concetta Ferreiuolo of Freehold.
(The woman on the right in the photo is Corporal Concetta Ferreiuolo of Freehold.)