Fort McHenry’s long history is linked with soldiers battling for freedom, political prisoners and spies, and pioneering medical achievements. Did you know it also has connections to the women’s suffrage movement? During the First World War, Fort McHenry was known as General Hospital No. 2, when its grounds were transformed into a massive hospital built to receive wounded soldiers. Staffing the hospital were doctors and nurses with the Army Medical Department, who worked tirelessly for six years to treat and rehabilitate injured soldiers and veterans as well as influenza pandemic victims. The nurses who passed through Fort McHenry’s gates came from all over the country, and included graduates from Baltimore’s nursing schools. Their time at the hospital coincided with a growing wave of activism to gain support for a 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Some of the most prominent leaders of women’s suffrage organizations, both nationally and in Baltimore, were nurses by profession. Nurses and suffragists had many common interests and their support for each other overlapped in a number of ways. Although the demands of war service made for busy work lives, the women at General Hospital No. 2 would have been aware of the suffragist movement, and one woman in particular played a significant role. The 300 or so nurses who passed through General Hospital No. 2 over the years served at a time of great change in both the world and the country. By the time the hospital finally closed its doors in 1923, women had finally won the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. In Maryland, however, the fight continued, and it took another 20 years before ratification in 1941.
Last updated: August 23, 2020