Hannah A. Ropes
1809 - 1863
Hannah Anderson was born in New Gloucester, Maine to a family of early New England settlers. She married educator William H. Ropes at the age of twenty five; they lived in Waltham, Massachusetts and had four children, two of which lived to adulthood.
When her husband abandoned her she was left to raise her children and Hannah bloomed in a new found self reliance. When her son was eighteen in 1855, he became a homesteader in the Kansas Territory. Increasingly interested in the abolitionist movement and the westward expansion, she and her daughter also moved to Kansas. But the political turmoil over the slavery issue caused Hannah's return to Massachusetts.
During this period she was increasingly politically active and well connected. She wrote a novel, Cranston House and also published Six Months in Kansas. Like other women of the time, she was called upon to nurse sick friends. A nephew had sent her a copy of Florence Nightingale's newly published Notes on Nursing and Hannah Ropes must have been deeply influenced by Nightingale's writing.
When her son Edward served in the Civil War, she volunteered to serve as a nurse. She was assigned as head matron of the Union Hotel Hospital in Washington D.C., where she worked with Louisa May Alcott. She actively decried the appalling conditions - both the lack of sanitation and the indifference and even cruel treatment of the soldiers - and was pro-active in making change. For Hannah Ropes and other women "nurses" this meant butting heads with the military and physicians who resented the presence of women in the makeshift hospitals.
She contracted typhoid pneumonia at that hospital and died at the age of 54. She had kept a diary which was only recently published. Between her diary and correspondence, a different perspective of the Civil War and the emergence of nursing has been gained. Thus while Hannah Ropes was barely known during her own lifetime, her significant work is available for study and admiration today.
Brumgardt, J.K. (Ed.). (1980). Civil War Nurse: The Diary and Letters of Hannah Ropes. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
Hawkins, J. W. (1988). Hannah A. Ropes In: Dictionary of American nursing biography. M. Kaufman, (Ed.). Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Stein, A.P. (1992). Hannah Anderson (Chandler) Ropes. In: American nursing: A biographical dictionary, Vol II. V.L. Bullough, V.L., O.M. Church, & A.P. Stein, (Eds.). New York: Garland.
Ropes, H.A. (1856). Six months in Kansas by a Lady. Boston: Jewett.
Ropes, H. A. (1859). Cranston House: A novel. Boston: Clapp.