Friday, April 27, 2012
Friday Books: Strength of Women
I am about 80% done with My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira, so I'm going to go ahead with my review.
This is another excellent book. Mary Sutter is a woman who wants to become a surgeon. This is in the 1860's just as the Civil War begins. Of course, at that time women were not even considered for medical school (such as it was). She persistently asked doctors to sponsor her and put in a good word for her at the schools, but was always denied.
As the war begins, Mary dives into the work of nursing/maid/housekeeper/helper/surgeon's apprentice/you-name-it at a local hospital thrown together in a crumbling, old hotel. Conditions are worse than raunchy. It's a bug-infested, filthy building, stifling hot in summer, drafty and freezing in winter. The work continues at top speed 24 hours a day, with very little help and almost no supplies.
Pain killer consists of whiskey, and amputations are done with a saw.
You get the idea. It's filthy and disgusting work, and most of the soldiers die.
It is sad that they knew very little about infection in those days. Thousands died who would not have had to, because of the lack of cleanliness. The book is quite graphic and gory with all the wounds and how they attempt to treat them. I will spare you any more of the gore.
What leaves me most in awe is the fortitude of the women. Mary herself is unstoppable. She is determined to become a surgeon. She will not take No for an answer. Other women step up to help with nursing, and live out their days trying their best to comfort and treat the sick and dying, going home with blood all over their clothes, collapsing into bed, rising wearily the next day to do it all again.
I have been coddled. I can hardly stand to empty out the trash. I would not have been a good nurse ever, but especially back then. I am so amazed at what women had to put up with. At one point Mary is "forced" to take a day off. She wanders out into the city almost in a daze, not sure what to do. She enters a restaurant and is told "we don't serve unaccompanied women." What is that?? The Taliban?? Remember, I said Mary doesn't take No for an answer, so they do eventually serve her.
I would have left the place in tears and shame.
These strong women of old paved the way for wimps like me to have the luxury of being coddled and of having things handed to me. Mine has been an easy life. I get to relax and read great books like My Name is Mary Sutter. I give it 5 of 5 stars.