Mary Livermore


Interested in learning more about Mary Livermore? Here's a look at her book My story of the War: A woman's Narrative of four Years Personal experience It can easily be said that Mary Ashton Rice Livermore contributed greatly to the areas of health care, women's rights, and the abolitionist movement during the nineteenth century. She was a strong believer in the power of women and thus was known for her dedication in advocating for their freedom. As the director for the Northwestern branch of the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) , Mary Livermore checked and shipped donations, coordinated volunteers and medical care, and established sanitary procedures for hospitals and army camps. She went above and beyond the call of duty, by personally tending to wounded soldiers. (Alverson, 2005).

Biography of Mary Livermore

Mary Livermore, was born on December 19, 1820. Her birth name is Mary Ashton Rice and she was of Welsh descent (Chadwick, 2002). Her father, Timothy Rice, and her mother, Zebiah Ashton Rice , also had two more daughters after Mary’s birth. Their names are Rachel and Abigail (Venet, 2005). She graduated from the Female Seminary in Charlestown, Massachusetts after two years, according to Chadwick (2002). Mary loved the school and studied subjects that were not available to young women in that day and age, including Latin and Astronomy (Venet, 2005). She taught Latin and French at the school, upon graduating (Chadwick, 2002). As stated by Venet (2005), the death of her sister Rachel, encouraged her to move on with her life and try something new. She received a job offer to become a private teacher to a tobacco planter’s children, and she accepted, moving to Virginia (Venet, 2005).
In 1845, Mary married Rev. Daniel P. Livermore who was a Universalist minister (Chadwick, 2002). Chadwick (2002) goes on to state that she served as a nurse in the Civil War and was an activist for women's rights during this time. Over the span of thirteen years, Livermore deliveed an average of one hundred and fifty lectures per year, speaking on an assortment of topics such as history, religion and politics (Chadwick, 2002). As asserted by Chadwick (2002), she dies in 1905 on May 23, after living an accomplished life.

Mary Livermore’s Contribution to Health careMary Livermore dedicated most of her life to helping all people. As a minister's wife she did this through prayer, healing and advocacy towards women. She was the northwestern director of the USSC (Alverson, 2005). The USSC started in 1861, as President Lincoln signed a bill making the USSC an offical agency (Alverson, 2005). The USSC only lasted five years as it disbanded in 1866. It operated during the times of teh Civil War in the United States, and during the next four years volunteer work of thousands of women would cut the Union Army's disease rate in half. The USSC also raised around twenty five million dollars in support of the Northern war effort. As Mary livermore was director, her efforts in the USSC went above and beyond the usual call of duty. She traveled beyond Union lines to tend to wounded soldiers and organized several "Sanity Fairs" to raise money for her cause (Livermore, 1897). She even persuaded President Lincoln to donate his handwritten Emancipation Proclamation to be auctioned off to raise funds (Livermore, 1897). Since Mary Livermore was also an advocate for women's rights, she lead 2500 women into being qualified physicians in 1880 (Alverson, 2005). She states in her book, "The Story of My Life", that women now had occupations in respectable fields, recognized by law (Livermore, 1897).

Mary Livermore in the Fight for Women's Rights
During the late 1800's, representatives of Illinois felt that the right to vote was essential in order for females to gain independence in society (Janu & Venet, 1996). This led to the creation of the Illinois Woman Suffrage Association in 1869, of which Mary Livermore was elected president for her determination and efforts in organizing the convention (Janu & Venet, 1996). The purpose of this association was to rid of all legal obstacles which prevented women from voting, owning property, and having equal education (Janu & Venet, 1996). Therefore, this organization brought women a greater sense of independence, freedom, as well as purpose in society. A few other organizations Mary became a part of after the war included the American Woman Suffrage Association and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WGBH, 2009).

Mary Livermore's Contribution to the Abolitionist Movement
During the 1850's, the Livermore family moved to Auburn, New York where abolitionism provoked public opinion (Venet, 2005). Daniel Livermore approved local abolitionists to have meetings in the Universalist church, declaring that his was the only sanctuary in Aubrun to approve such action (Venet, 2005). Preoccupied by the challenges of motherhood and distressed about her husband's profession, Mary Livermore defended abolition philosophically but remained undecided about partaking actively in the movement (Venet, 2005). Many years later, Mary encompassed antislavery publicly (Venet, 2005). In 1856 she published two antislavery poems in the Auburn newspaper, one being titled "The Slave Tragedy at Cincinnati" (Venet, 2005). This poem was the acknowledgment to the case of an escaping slave woman named Margaret Garner, escorted into a court in Cincinnati for killing one of her children as opposed to being recaptured (Venet, 2005). Mary Livermore also faulted the ministers of American sanctuary's controversy with slavery (Venet, 2005).

In conclusion, Mary Livermore played a vital role during the 1800’s with regards to the abolitionist movement, women’s rights, as well as health care. She advocated greatly for antislavery campaigns, believing in freedom for all people. In addition, she fought immensely for the rights of women during this time period (Janu & Venet, 1996). Lastly, Mary Livermore used her occupation as a nurse to further develop health care and help bring it to the quality it is today.

Alverson, B. (2005). Mary Livermore 1820-1905. Retrieved from
Brockett, L., & Vaughan, M. (2009). Mary Livermore. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from
Chadwick, P. (2002). Mary A. Livermore biography. Essortment website. Retrieved from

Janu, B., & Venet, W. (1996). Mary Livermore and the Illinois Women’s suffrage movement. Illinois Periodicals Online. Retrieved from
Livermore, M. (1897). The Story of My Life; or, The Sunshine and Shadow of Seventy Years.(p. 598-599) Retrieved from;cc=moa;rgn=main;view=text;idno=4728109.0001.001
Venet, H. W. (2005). A strong-minded woman: The life of Mary Livermore. Retrieved from [[ =bl&ots=0grRk3TdVZ&sig=Mmjpit0fsTqx1qTOX0AZoLZEmq8&hl=en&ei=qhkgS8mFH4j_nQft-JnWDQ &sa=X&oi= book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CA4Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=&f=false]]

WGBH. (2001). Mary Livermore and the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Retrieved from wgbh/ amex/ grant/peopleevents/p_livermore.html