Down in history we find it and in grandest works of art,
How the men on fields of battle play so well the soldier's part,
But I come to tell the story of relief from care and pain
Rendered them by Negro women in the Cuban War with Spain.
When the scourge of yellow fever fell upon the boys in blue.
And the nation stood in wonder scarcely knowing what to do,
There was found a Negro woman, Mrs. Curtis was her name,
Wife, she was, of a physician with the highest social fame.
When the name of Mrs. Curtis fell upon the nation's ear
And her worth on such occasions had been shown in language clear,
She was summoned by McKinley to the White House—there to plan
How to change the dread condition; how to stay the soldier's ban.
By him there she was commissioned, given fullest oversight
Of relieving fever-stricken in the famous Cuban fight;
With a confidence unfailing, she her preparations made—
Uncle Sam his backing promised true success could not be stayed.
When a call she made for helpers, from the nation's busy throng,
The response from Negro nurses came three hundred eighty strong,
In the Catholics were also, found one hundred twenty nuns,
Who would brave the field as nurses for the fever-stricken ones.
In this noble work of mercy were their duties done so well
That a halo of enchantment round them all is made to dwell,
When we search the war department no complaint of them is found,
Not a word to their discredit and to truth that record's bound.
While upon the field of battle helping stem the fever's tide,
While upon that angel mission seven Negro nurses died,
In this work the nuns had fallen till the same had numbered four;
Thus on snowy, angel pinions they the news to heaven bore.
When our boys had thrashed the Spaniards, Mrs. Curtis straightway sent
A petition into congress praying that a monument
Be at Arlington erected out of sacred memory
Of the nurses who in Cuba died to make the island free.
Mrs. Curtis went in person, she in congress did appear,
Told the story of her labors, of her precious deeds of cheer,
She convincingly impressed it in the nation's congress true,
That for those who fell on duty still a monument was due.
An apportionment by congress for the same at once was made,
Yea, to make a fit memorial for the nation's honored dead;
Twenty-five will name the thousands of the dollars that were spent—
In the nation's cemetery stands the nurses' monument.
Mrs. Curtis and her nurses have been valiant in the strife,
May such heroines be favored with a long and happy life;
In the face of such achievements on the nation's battle field,
Prejudice is made to tremble, partly too, his lips are sealed.
Comments about this poem (Negro Heroines by Lizelia Augusta Jenkins Moorer )
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