This weekend I finished up looking through primary documents and secondary research on my particular section, which is women’s relief efforts. I picked out a few more people to profile, collected more dates for the timeline, and found a few more buildings to possibly highlight on the Fredericksburg map. I also transcribed a few documents that hadn’t been transcribed by Dr. Hennessy, and I uploaded them to the website.
I was sort of putting off reading one primary source because I knew it wouldn’t be helpful, but I finally read it this weekend. In it, I came across the kind of thing that reminds me why I love history so much. In her autobiography, Half a Century, Jane Swisshelm wrote about her trip to Fredericksburg. Before she got here she came across Dorothea Dix, and Dix does not come off very good! She supposedly told Swisshelm, quite rudely, that Fredericksburg had already been organized by her and didn’t need anyone else. Swisshelm told Dix that she had friends in high places who would pretty much give her the what for if she didn’t back off. Swisshelm got to the city and saw that it was a mess. She came across one or two of Dix’s nurses and wrote that they weren’t very good at their jobs. So, basically Dorothea Dix, according to Jane Swisshelm, was an incompetent, dishonest harpy. Then again, Swisshelm doesn’t come off very well either. She’s very overdramatic and falsely modest. The source is generally useless for my purposes, considering it was written much later, but I got a kick out of it.
In this corner, Dorothea Dix. In this corner, Jane Swisshelm. Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!
On another note of interest, at least for those Mary Washington folks, Julia Wheelock mentions that she and a few other women visited the Mary Washington Monument when they were here. Of course, her main thoughts are about Mary Washington being the mother of George, and she proceeds to wax poetic about him. You guys probably get a lot of that, huh?