The Civil War separated families in unprecedented numbers and allowed women to assume many new roles. With the departure of men into the military, women entered occupations previously reserved for men. In factories, shops, and especially, the expanding civil service, women took jobs as clerks, bookkeepers, and secretaries. A number of women also served as spies and, disguised as men, enlisted as soldiers. But women achieved particular prominence as nurses. Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton were among thousands of northern and southern women who tended wounded men on the battlefield and in hospitals. Through organizations like the Christian Commission and the US Sanitary Commission, woman agents distributed medical supplies, organized hospitals, passed out Bibles and religious tracts, and offered comfort to wounded or dying soldiers.

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