22 October 2013

Woman's Relief Corps

"We hope that in the years of the future, some historian may glean from these pages many evidences that the Woman's Relief Corps of Massachusetts honored the brave men of the Grand Army of the Republic." [1]

Soldiers' Home, Chelsea, Massachusetts, where "Men, crippled, paralyzed and
penniless, as a result of their war service, are tenderly cared for under the roof
of this home which shelters 330 veterans of the Union Army." [2]

The only officially recognized auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic was the Woman's Relief Corps, the first Department of which was organized in Massachusetts on 12 February 1872. [3] This was a group of patriotic women, mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and friends of Civil War veterans who found a way to contribute to the welfare of those men in a very significant way. They raised money for soldiers homes, for gravesite maintenance, but they also used their domestic skills to create beautiful quilts and items for the soldiers to use on a daily basis. They tirelessly held bazaars and solicited donations from the public in order to supply bibles, flags, food, and clothing to those in need.

Many towns in Massachusetts had their own corps, and Scituate was no exception. Even today there is still evidence that the ladies cared for graves. Back in June I went on an exploration of the Merritt Cemetery in Scituate with my second Cousin, Charlie Hollis. I posted about that here. While we were mucking around we found a flag holder apparently left by the Women's Relief Corps! The gravestone was missing or covered with growth (see photo at end of post), so we couldn't even tell which grave was decorated. The marker says: Mass. Dep'm't. Womans Relief Corps, Corps 121 W. R. C.

Here is a little blurb about the GEORGE W. PERRY CORPS No. 121, Scituate, Massachusetts.

On April 5, 1889, through the earnest efforts of Mrs. Marion L. Bailey, Corps 121 was instituted by Mrs. Elizabeth V. Lang, Department Inspector, with nineteen charter members. The officers were publicly installed in the evening in the presence of the members of the Post and other interested friends.

A Relief Fund was started which has received additions from time to time, and although there are not many calls for relief in the quiet little town of Scituate, assistance is always cheerfully rendered whenever necessary.

The Corps takes great pride in appropriating funds to make the Grand Army Hall attractive and comfortable. The Post is assisted by the Corps each Memorial Day in preparing garlands for the fallen comrades, and both organizations unite in a memorial service for those who sleep in unknown graves.

Membership, fifty.

PRESIDENTS 
Mandana C. Morris........1889, 1890 
Mary F. Prouty...............1891,1892 
Martha W. Pierce............1893 
Annie M. Soule..............1894 [4]
These were the officers of the Scituate Corps 121 in 1902:
Clara A. Osborne, President
Martha W. Pierce, Senior Vice-President
Annie Patterson, Junior Vice-President
Past President, Mary F. Prouty
Delegate, Lizzie L. Dalby
Alternate, Rachel N. Burrows

Polly Kimmitt, digital photograph of unidentified graveside flag holder,
Kilburn Merritt Cemetery, Scituate, Massachusetts, taken 18 June 2013.


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1. Women's Relief Corps, Department of Massachusetts, History of the Department of Massachusetts Woman's Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, from date of organization, February 12, 1872, to January 1, 1895 (Boston: E. B. Stillings & Co., Printers, 1895); Archive.org (http://www.archive.org : 22 Oct 2013), Preface.

2. Ibid., 60.

3. Ibid., viii.

4. Ibid., 255.

5. Women's Relief Corps, Department of Massachusetts, Journal of the Twenty-Third Annual Convention of the Department of Massachusetts, Woman's Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, Boston, Mass., February 11 and 12, 1902, (Boston: E.B. Stillings & Co., 1902), 33.