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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Mary A. Livermore

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As money became more and more needed, Mrs. Livermore decided to try a sanitary commission fair in Chicago. The women said, "We will raise twenty-five thousand dollars," but the men laughed at such an impossibility. The farmers were visited, and solicited to give vegetables and grain, while the cities were not forgotten. Fourteen of Chicago's largest halls were hired. The women had gone into debt ten thousand dollars, and the men of the city began to think they were crazy. The Board of Trade called upon them and advised that the fair be given up; the debts should be paid, and the men would give the twenty-five thousand, when, in their judgment, it was needed! The women thanked them courteously, but pushed forward in the work.

It had been arranged that the farmers should come on the opening day, in a procession, with their gifts of vegetables. Of this plan the newspapers made great sport, calling it the "potato procession." The day came. The school children had a holiday, the bells were rung, one hundred guns were fired, and the whole city gathered to see the "potato procession." Finally it arrived,--great loads of cabbages, onions, and over four thousand bushels of potatoes. The wagons each bore a motto, draped in black, with the words, "We buried a son at Donelson," "Our father lies at Stone River," and other similar ones. The flags on the horses' heads were bound with black; the women who rode beside a husband or son, were dressed in deep mourning. When the procession stopped before Mrs. Livermore's house, the jeers were over, and the dense crowd wept like children.

Six of the public halls were filled with beautiful things for sale, while eight were closed so that no other attractions might compete with the fair. Instead of twenty-five thousand, the women cleared one hundred thousand dollars.

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Then Cincinnati followed with a fair, making two hundred and twenty-five thousand; Boston, three hundred and eighty thousand; New York, one million; and Philadelphia, two hundred thousand more than New York. The women had found that there was work enough for them to do.

Mrs. Livermore was finally ordered to make a tour of the hospitals and military posts on the Mississippi River, and here her aid was invaluable. It required a remarkable woman to undertake such a work. At one point she found twenty-three men, sick and wounded, whose regiments had left them, and who could not be discharged because they had no descriptive lists. She went at once to General Grant, and said, "General, if you will give me authority to do so, I will agree to take these twenty-three wounded men home."

The officials respected the noble woman, and the red tape of army life was broken for her sake.

When the desolate company arrived in Chicago, on Saturday, the last train had left which could have taken a Wisconsin soldier home. She took him to the hotel, had a fire made for him, and called a doctor.

"Pull him through till Monday, Doctor," she said, "and I'll get him home." Then, to the lad, "You shall have a nurse, and Monday morning I will go with you to your mother."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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