While scouring through hundreds of articles and squinting to read 150 -year–old newspaper accounts like those above, I found the most profound and concise information in an obscure document written by doctorate student, Hyejung Grace Kong, in Seoul, Korea. Below are of some amazing facts she shared:

  • Out of the 12 wards, 3 were for women—One for upstanding women of good character, one for women of ill-repute, and one for surgical and obstetrics. It goes to reason, no women of good character would wish to be ill next to a hussy.
  • In 1860, Charity Hospital was one of the largest in the world, even though New Orleans wasn’t even in the top twenty cities by population in the world.
  • Behind the main hospital, there was the deadhouse (their words, not mine), another words, a mortuary.
  • Because it was a teaching hospital, a surgeon would walk through the mortuary and choose which body he wished to use for his next lecture then pull out a pen and mark a big X on the deceased chest to designate his choice.
  • During some yellow fever epidemics, professors told their students, many of which were interns at the hospital, not to go to work at the hospital lest they get the disease, although the Sisters were expected to live at the hospital and work there at all times.
  • At 4:00 every afternoon, the Sisters walked through the wards misting a lavender spray in all the wards to freshen them.
  • Nurses were poorly trained and could more correctly be called domestic servants. Many were women who had been ill, were now better, but not well enough to go back to their regular lives.
  • The hospitals call system was that of a bell. One stroke summoned the head Sister. 3 were used if only one slave carrier (used to carried a patient when he or she couldn’t walk) was wanted, and 6 were used if 2 were needed. At 8 pm the bell struck 9 times as a signal for the slaves and servants to rest. By 8:30, the hospital was quiet.

Hyejung Grace Kong has been most generous with her knowledge, and I’m grateful to call her a friend. Thank you Grace!!