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Civil War Female Nurse - Cairo Angel

Item MED-7636
Mary Jane Safford


Original period cabinet card image of Civil War Nurse - Mary Jane Safford - the "Cairo Angel," signed in period ink.

Safford became a school teacher in Joliet, Shawneetown and Cairo IL.

At the start of the Civil War, in the spring of 1861, Cairo became a town of some strategic importance. Quickly occupied by troops, it also quickly broke out in disease(s) in the camps constructed in the area. Safford began to visit these camps and tended to the sick and also to distribute food she had prepared. She won the respect of officer and surgeons and was soon permitted to draw supplies collected and forwarded by the U.S. Sanitary Commission.

In the summer of 1861, she began to work with “Mother” Mary Ann Bickerdyke, giving Mary some training as a nurse. Safford was tending the wounded on the battlefield at Belmont Missouri, and Fort Donelson. She and Bickerdyke also worked to transport wounded from Fort Donelson and in April 1862 following the Battle of Shiloh, she worked aboard the hospital ships City of Memphis and the Hazel Dell. She was nicknamed the “Cairo Angel” for her service in Cairo, Illinois.

She graduated from the New York medical College for Women in 1869 and pursued advanced training in Europe for three years. After return from Europe she opened a private practice in Chicago and later Boston. She was also involved in the women’s suffrage movement.

Information extracted from Wikipedia and Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War