Saturday, June 23, 2018

Ms. Hen reviews Hospital Sketches

Louisa May Alcott's former house in Louisburg Square, Boston

Hospital Sketches
Louisa May Alcott

Ms. Hen bought this small book many years ago, and finally got around to reading it. She is a big fan of Louisa May Alcott, especially the book that was never published during her lifetime because it was considered too racy, A LONG FATAL LOVE CHASE. She admires LITTLE WOMEN, but thinks Ms. Alcott would have been better off writing from her heart rather than pandering towards the attitudes of the times in which she lived.

This book is based on letters Alcott wrote to her family when she worked as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War. She worked for six weeks in a hospital in Washington before she developed typhoid and was sent home.

The character Tribulation Periwinkle has a hard time deciding what to do, so she decides to be a nurse. She signs up, and has a difficult time procuring a rail pass to Washington from Boston. She goes from office to office in search of a pass, and men everywhere insult and dismiss her, but finally she succeeds. Ms. Hen thinks it’s horrible the way the character was treated like a child simply because she was a woman, and the men she dealt with thought she wasn’t worthy of respect. Ms. Hen knows that if this happened today, she hopes the character would not have to go through so much trouble. And she would be paid for their efforts.

Louisa lived at 20 Pickney St. on Beacon Hill when she was young

Ms. Hen thought it was fascinating that the Army brought young women to Washington to nurse soldiers who had absolutely no training in such work. Her first day on the job, the head nurse gives her a pail, a brush, and some soap, and tells her to wash the men who had just come from the field of Battle in Fredericksburg. Miss Periwinkle gets to know the men and cares for them, she helps them to feel better, and she learns a lot in the process.

Another aspect of this novel that struck Ms. Hen was the character’s attitude towards the former slaves. Miss Periwinkle’s family housed runaway slaves in the Underground Railroad, so she has some experience with the situation. The character saw the African Americans in Washington, and was afraid of them at first, but then she begins to understand that they are like everyone else, and they are beautiful.  She hugs and kisses a little African American boy that’s in the hospital, and the other nurses are horrified, but she wants to help the child be loved like any other child. She doesn’t like that the other nurses treat the former slaves the way they do.

Ms. Hen knows some things about hospital from first-hand experience, and Miss Periwinkle’s experience with surgeons and doctors are similar to the ones that Ms. Hen has had. The doctors are, for the most part, high and mighty, and are difficult to catch to write an order or do something for a patient. Not all doctors are like this, but many are. Things were the same during the Civil War. And the way they treat the nurses and other people in the hospital is disrespectful, though now, the nurses are also grandiose, since they make a lot of money, and think they’re smarter than the other workers around them. Ms. Hen doesn’t mean to rant, but she deals with these situations often. Ms. Periwinkle was not a trained nurse, and she was a volunteer, which confounds Ms. Hen, because if she were a nurse now, her experience would be transcendent.

Ms. Hen liked this small book. She wanted to read something fast, and she thought it was entertaining and charming, and she learned a lot about the way things used to be in world of hospitals, compared to the way they are now.

Ms. Hen, protecting herself from germs

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