SPRINGFIELD – The second Wednesday of May could soon become a statewide holiday honoring a historic Galesburg figure and all military nurses. Mother Mary Ann Bickerdyke was a hospital administrator and military nurse from Galesburg who served as chief of nursing for Ulysses S. Grant's army during the Civil War.
The Illinois State Senate passed House Bill 2775, which adds Mother Mary Ann Bickerdyke Day to the list of commemorative dates. State Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) sponsored HB 2775 in the Senate; it had already passed the House and was sponsored by Representative Don Moffitt (R-Galesburg).
"Mother Mary Ann Bickerdyke is a pivotal figure in the history of battlefield nursing and military medicine. She helped revolutionize battlefield care, sanitation and veterans advocacy," Sullivan said. "Her sacrifices and the outstanding work of all military nurses deserve to be honored and recognized; that's what this commemorative day does."
"Thank you Sen. Sullivan for your efforts to recognize Mother Bickerdyke, who brought battlefield medicine to new heights, which has been built upon by modern medicine," Moffitt said. "This day brings honor not only to her but to past, present and future military nurses as well as all nurses."
Mary Ann Bickerdyke lived from 1817 to 1901 and oversaw the construction of roughly 300 field hospitals during the war as well as personally tending to the sick and wounded on the battlefield. Because of her work, Union soldiers gave her the title "Mother."
She lived and practiced medicine in Galesburg before the Civil War. Following the war she set up numerous schools, hospitals and boarding houses. She was also a vocal advocate for veterans' pensions and benefits.
Mother Mary Ann Bickerdyke Day now goes to the governor for approval.