Reminiscences of a Southern Hospital, by Its Matron

Phoebe Yates Pember (1823 - 1913)

Phoebe Yates Pember served as a matron in the Confederate Chimborazo military hospital in Richmond, Virginia, during the Civil War, overseeing a dietary kitchen serving meals to 300 or more wounded soldiers daily. Reminiscences of a Southern Hospital is her vivid recounting of hospital life and of her tribulations (and personal growth) as a female administrator. To follow her from day one, when she is greeted with “ill-repressed disgust” that “one of them had come,” and she, herself, “could only understand that the position was one which dove-tailed the offices of housekeeper and cook” to the day when she as exerts control over the hospital’s “medicinal whiskey barrel” is to watch a woman find herself. Besides describing “daily scenes of pathos,” Pember gives a horrifying account of the prisoner exchange of November 1864 (“living and dead . . . not distinguishable”), and also of the evacuation and burning of Richmond in 1865. Her memoirs were serialized in Cosmopolite magazine in 1866, then reprinted in book form in 1879 under the title A Southern Woman’s Story. Pember was honored by the US Postal Service with a stamp in 1995. (Summary by Sue Anderson)

Genre(s): Memoirs

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 01 1 - My Mammy's Soup; The Whiskey Barrel Sue Anderson
Play 02 2 - Our Daily Trials; Sober Ladies Wanted Sue Anderson
Play 03 3 - Sad Letters; State Peculiarities and Differences Sue Anderson
Play 04 4 - Hopeless Enebriates; What Constitutes a Lady? Sue Anderson
Play 05 5 - Rat Surgeons; Vaccination Sue Anderson
Play 06 6 - Prisoners of War Sue Anderson
Play 07 7 - My Furlough; Importance of Hatpins Sue Anderson
Play 08 8 - Burning of the City; Entrance of the Federal Army Sue Anderson
Play 09 9 - Final Scenes Sue Anderson