Phoebe Yates Levy Pember
Phoebe Yates Levy Pember, 1823-1913
Phoebe Yates Levy Pember, the well-educated daughter of a wealthy Jewish family from Charleston SC, was widowed from her Bostonian husband, who died of tuberculosis in July 1861. She returned to her family, who were living in Marietta GA. Pember wanted to serve the Confederate cause and used her friendship with the wife of Secretary of War George W. Randolph to obtain an appointment. On December 1, 1862, Pember became chief matron of the 2nd division of Richmond’s Chimborazo Hospital.
Though plagued by sever shortages of the supplies and medicine, and having to battle with doctors who did not approve of women's roles in hospitals, Pember labored unceasingly for the rest of the war to care for sick and wounded soldiers. In response to criticism that horrors should not be seen by ladies, Pember replied, “in the midst of suffering death, hoping with those almost beyond hope in this world; praying by the bedside of the lonely and heart-sicken; closing the eyes of boys hardly old enough to realize man’s sorrow, much less suffer man’s fierce hate, a woman must soar beyond the conventional modesty considered correct under different circumstances.”
Pember stayed with the hospital and her patients after the fall of Richmond and until the facility was taken over by Federal Authorities. In 1897 she published her memoirs, A Southern Woman’s Story, in which she vividly describes the suffering and the spirit of her patients.
her compassion ans respect for the common soldier were evident in her writing. “Scenes of pathos occurred daily _ scenes that wrung the heart and forced the dew of pity from the eyes; but feeling the enervated the mind and relaxed the body was sentimental luxury that was not to be indulged in. There was too much work to be done....”