Annie Turner Wittenmyer, a wealthy widow by the time the Civil War began, threw her efforts into providing hospital supplies needed by Union soldiers. The Iowa resident visited soldiers in army camps.
She established local aid societies throughout Iowa to collect hospital supplies. Her efforts were recognized. She was appointed the leadership of the Iowa State Sanitary Commission in September of 1862.
Annie continued to bring food and blankets to soldiers in army camps, field hospitals, riverboats, and on the battlefields. While there, she saw the food given to soldiers, such as hardtack and greasy bacon, and it distressed her. The men suffered from scurvy and typhoid.
Her brother, David Turner, was in an army hospital in Sedalia, Missouri. While she was with him, David was given fried bacon, bread, and strong coffee. Though she nursed him back to health, the problem of the food given to wounded and sick men remained on her mind.
An idea for a Diet Kitchen at army hospitals came to her in December of 1863. She proposed her idea to Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, and President Abraham Lincoln.
Receiving charge of kitchens in all Union army hospitals, Annie started in Nashville, Tennessee. She trained female workers to prepare light meals with individual attention to each patient’s needs. By working with each patient’s doctor, the ladies gave nourishing meals.
Over 100 Diet Kitchens, staffed by two trained women, had been established by the end of the Civil War. By then the army’s medical department had generally adopted the Diet Kitchen.
These kitchens offered another way for women to serve.
-Sandra Merville Hart
“Annie Turner Wittenmyer,” Brittanica.com, 2018/12/28 https://www.britannica.com/biography/Annie-Turner-Wittenmyer.
Longden, Tom. “Annie Wittenmyer,” Des Moines Register, 2018/12/28 https://data.desmoinesregister.com/famous-iowans/annie-wittenmyer.
Williams, Rachel. “The United States Sanitary and Christian Commissions and the Union War Effort,” National Museum of Civil War Medicine, 2018/12/27 http://www.civilwarmed.org/commissions/.
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