Ralph Adams Cram

Lecture - A Season with the Army: Civil War Nurse Harriet Eaton, 10/26

Continuing our fall series of Civil War lectures, at 2 PM on Saturday, October 26, we welcome to the Museum Jane Schultz, Professor of English, American Studies, and Women’s Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis. Her topic will be "A Season with the Army: Civil War Nurse Harriet Eaton and New England’s Role in Medical Relief Work," based on her 2010 scholarly edition, This Birth Place of Souls: The Civil War Nursing Diary of Harriet Eaton. Admission is free, thanks to the generous support of the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation.

Schultz2012Jane Schultz, the nation’s expert on Civil War nursing, will discuss a New England woman’s critical role on the battlefields of Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. Harriet Eaton was born as Harriet Hope Agnes Bacon in 1818 in Newton, MA. Her marriage to Baptist minister Jeremiah Sewall Eaton was followed by relocation to Portland, ME, where her husband led the Free Street Baptist Church. She was one of the first volunteers to enlist in the Maine Camp Hospital Association, an aid organization established by the church in October of 1862, in the wake of the Battle of Antietam. One of a handful of women who served as regimental nurses, she led a transient existence, roving the field hospitals that grew as battles raged.

CityPointHospitalHarriet Eaton’s diary and papers offer insight into the experience of the twenty-one thousand women who served in Union military hospitals. Her uncensored nursing diary is a rarity among medical accounts of the war, showing the diarist to be an astute observer of human nature. She struggled with the disruptions of transience, scarcely sleeping in the same place twice, but found the politics of daily toil even more challenging. Though Eaton praised some of the surgeons with whom she worked, she labeled others charlatans whose neglect had deadly implications for the rank and file. If she saw villainy in her medical colleagues, she also saw her service as an opportunity to convert the soldiers who were her patients. The diary stands in contrast to accounts of women's hospital work published as post-war memoirs, which were often carefully crafted narratives attentive to conventions of propriety and commemorative practice.

Jane Schultz is also the author of Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America (2004). In that work, she shows that women war workers during the Civil War era were not all white and middle class. Women without middle-class advantages and African-American women also served as hospital workers, though women like Harriet Eaton left a stronger paper trail. On one hand, women of middle-class origin had to struggle against the belief that nursing wounded soldiers was an improper role because it exposed them to so many men and so much horror. On the other, they showed themselves eager to maintain race and class boundaries between themselves and the other women around them.

Schultz will be available after the talk to sign her book This Birth Place of Souls: The Civil War Nursing Diary of Harriet Eaton.
The final lecture in the series is:

"'Not that this is Going to Be a Real War': The Civil War, the Marshall House Flag, and Elmer Ellsworth’s Martyrdom" by Robert Weible, State Historian, Chief Curator, New York State Museum on Saturday, November 9, 2:00 pm.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861-6559. www.monh.org.

Image credits:

Courtesy of Jane Schultz.

Field hospital near City Point, Va. (1861-1865). NYPL Wallach Division: Photography Collection. Digital ID: 114682.

Ralph Adams Cram: The apprentice years in Boston

Book_ralph_cram_web In 1881, at seventeen, Ralph Cram (1863-1942) left his family in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire and moved to Boston, Massachusetts.  This move began a new phase of his life.  His father, a Unitarian minister, had arranged an apprenticeship for him with the firm of Rotch and Tilden.

Letters held in the VGW Archives from Ralph Cram to his mother, Sara Elizabeth Cram, chronicle the activities of the young apprentice. Ralph Cram writes about the sketches he is working on for Arthur Rotch.  After working for the architectural firm for one year, Ralph Cram started making a small salary and by 1884 he was making $20.00 per week.  During the early 1880’s, Ralph mentions to his mother that some of his drawings have been published in a New York magazine.  The perspective sketches he worked on were praised by Arthur Rotch.

In addition to his interest in architecture, Ralph Cram went to symphony concerts, plays, opera, and the art museum in Boston.  Cram read books on many subjects. John Ruskin (1819-1900) was one of his favorite philosophers. He wrote his mother about his faith compared with what he was reading in philosophy and science.  At this time in Boston, Copley Square, Trinity Church, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Public Library were all in one area.  Cram made the most of all the cultural enrichment that Boston has to offer.  In December of 1884, Ralph mentions to his mother the hopes of traveling to Europe and how to finance a trip.

It is interesting to note that Ralph Cram’s early reading of the philosophy of John Ruskin, a Gothic Revivalist in Britain, probably had an influence on his later architectural work.  This later architectural work led the Gothic Revival in America.  One example is All Saints, Ashmont, built between 1891 and 1894.

The image above is from the book My Life in Architecture by Ralph Cram (NA 737 .C7 A5 1937).  Both this book and the Collection of Letters from the Sanborn and Cram Families (USM 006) were donated by Charles A. Parker.  Ralph Cram's letters to his mother are among the many letters of this collection of about 300.

The Sanborn and Cram families were both from Hampton Falls, New Hampshire.  The families were related by the fact that a Sanborn married a Cram and the two families remained friends. Their correspondence spans the time period of 1834-1884 in the Boston and Concord areas.