Finding, and losing, Bessie Greene

I spent my research time yesterday reading a regimental history of the 1st Mass. Heavy Artillery, and was pleased to be able to confirm that the wife and daughter of William B. Greene had visited his camp near the Long Bridge on the approaches to Washington, DC, during the Civil War. This daughter seems to have fallen out of many of the biographical sources. I first discovered a mention of her in a footnote to an essay on Orestes Brownson, in the Catholic World. Today, I was able to confirm her death, in the wreck of the Schiller off the Isles of Scilly in 1875, an event that is said to have significantly colored the last days of William B. Greene’s life.

Elizabeth “Bessie” Greene was friends with pioneer woman surgeon Susan J. Dimock, who also died in the wreck of the Schiller, as well as Lilian Freeman Clarke (probably the daughter of one of her father’s friends.) Bessie was at the New England Hospital for Women, where Dimock was resident physician, in the winter of 1872-3, “receiving treatment for an accident to her knee which caused a temporary lameness. She became interested in the patients in the Maternity Department [where Dimock was particularly concerned with young, unmarried mothers], and, instead of being afraid to attack a difficult problem and feeling excused by youth and inexperience from handling it, she determined that something should be done [to improve the lot of the patients, particularly after their discharge.]” The last two years of her life were spent pursuing that work.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.