Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott (1863)

The atmosphere of the average hospital is foreign to me. Luckily I’ve not been forced into an extended hospital visit so far in my life. I hope that it is much different from the army hospital described in this book. One would hope that hospital care has improved since the American Civil War. The food and supplies are severely lacking in quality. Each ward is filled to the brim with wounded soldiers with little peace and quite amid the bustle of a full hospital. As an avid book reader and determined daydreamer, the confines of a noisy, busy hospital would feel claustrophobic. I don’t believe I’d enjoy either working with Miss Alcott in 1862 nor working in modern hospitals. The sight of blood makes slightly queasy; the groans of the afflicted fill me with equal discomfort. Mere talk of surgery gives my a light stomachache. For the rest of the day, I’d imagine surgeons sawing through my bones without anesthetic.

Louisa May Alcott is having a conversation with her family trying to decide where the head next in life. Shooting down ideas of writing or teaching, she turns favorably upon the idea of helping the war effort by volunteering as a war nurse. Down she travels from Massachusetts to Washington DC describing her bumbling travels with much levity. At the hospital, she explains the conditions and circumstances of daily hospital life. At first, she bumbles through the normal tasks but in a few days she becomes accustomed to the regular nurse routine. The hours are long, the food is poor, bandages are not always available and people die regularly without anesthetic. The death of one particular man of impressive character and stoic demeanor almost brought me to tears. Drifting from happy to sad moments with a impressive authenticity Louisa illuminates the world of an active war hospital. Be ready for laughing and crying while reading Hospital Sketches.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/hospital-sketches-by-louisa-may-alcott/

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself by Harriett A. Jacobs (1861)

Originally written under a pseudonym, Linda Brent, and coincidentally published immediately before the American Civil War this book occupies an awkward point in history. The struggles that Harriett endured from birth to the age of twenty seven would soon be outlawed. Chattel slavery would cease within five years of this books publication but looking farther ahead we realize that the institutions of slavery would not be entirely demolished after this war. One wonders how upsetting it was for Harriett to see the initial hope and joy at the North’s victory give way to a general attitude of ambivalence towards the rights of black people throughout the United States. To think it would take close to another hundred years for major federal legislation to pass congress that protected the rights of black people as equal citizens. This book does not completely depress me. Instead, I take solace in those people who were willing to risk a helping hand for Harriett in her time of need.

Harriett Jacobs is born a slave and writes of the unique challenges that black women in slavery face. She describes the physical and mental abuse that slave women endure while at work in the house. Leaning heavily upon her family and friends she braves each new horror as if pushed along by an unseen hand. Read her words in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11030

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/incidents-in-the-life-of-a-slave-girl-by-harriet-jacobs/