Woman of the Century/Mary Jewett Telford
TELFORD, Mrs. Mary Jewett, army nurse, church and temperance worker, born in Seneca, N. Y.. March 18th, 1839. She was the fifth of ten children. Her father. Dr. Lester Jewett, was a physician and surgeon. Her mother, Hannah Southwick, was a Quaker of the Cassandra Southwick family. Her early life was spent on a farm. MARY JEWETT TELFORD. Her parents were uncompromising temperance people and shared fully in the abolition principles of the Quakers. Anti-slavery and temperance lecturers always found a refuge and a welcome at their fireside, and round that hearth there was much intelligent discussion of the live questions of the day. The "underground railroad" ran right through the farm, there being only one station between it and the Canadian line. Her earliest recollection is of a runaway slave; she stood clinging to her father's knees, watching the chattel as he examined a pistol, while the hired man was hitching up the team to convey him to the next station. "You would not shoot?" said her father. "I wouldn't be taken," was the reply. The conflicting passions on that slave's face indelibly impressed the mind of the child and doubtless hail its influence in making her life work the relief of the oppressed and suffering. In 1846 the family moved to Lima, Mich. Delicate health prevented regular attendance in school, but home instruction and the attrition and nutrition derived from an intelligent home life made her an acceptable district school teacher at the age of fourteen years. In 1859 she received the offer of a position as teacher of French and music in an academy in Morganfield, Ky. The girl replied that she was an abolitionist. The offer was repeated and she accepted. When she returned home the next year she left many cherished friends and kept up a warm correspondence until it was hushed by the gun which was fired on Fort Sumter. On the organization of the Sanitary Commission in the early summer of 1861, Miss Jewett applied to Miss Dix for a position as army nurse. She received only evasive answers and did not then know that the wise provision concerning age excluded her. She was at that time president of a girls' Soldier's Friends Society. A younger brother, who had enlisted, died in Nashville, Tenn., in December, 1862, in a hospital where there were one-thousand sick and wounded soldiers, and not one woman's care. She renewed her efforts to be accepted as a nurse in the western department They were wisely shy of strangers, and she received the reply that they "had all the women they needed." She told no one of that letter, but throwing it into the grate made of it a "whole burnt offering to her righteous wrath." That day was Saturday. On Monday, with her parents' consent (this was the third child they had given for freedom), she started for Nashville, determined to find or make a way into the hospitals. On her arrival she called on Miss Chase at Hospital No. 8 as a visitor. Some one had given an organ to the hospital, but there was no one who could play. Discovering that her visitor was a musician, Miss Chase invited her to remain a few days and give the soldiers some music. She at once took up the work of the house, and soon the surgeon, Dr. Otterson, inquired for her papers. "How would you like," said he, "to have me send and get you a commission?" With a bounding heart, she handed him the letter from Governor Blair and other Michigan friends, and the coveted commission was hers. Soon Miss Chase's health compelled retirement, and for eight months Miss Jewett was the only active woman in a hospital with six-hundred patients. After about a year of constant overwork, she also, was compelled to resign on account of impaired health. The following year she became the wife of Jacob Telford, a soldier, to whom she had lung been betrothed. He was wounded at Stone river, but remained with the army until the expiration of his term of service. Neither bride nor groom ever fully recovered the lost treasure of health. They removed to Grinnell, Iowa, in 1866, where they remained for seven years. Mrs. Telford took classes in French and music from Iowa College. They then removed to Denver, Col., on account of her suffering from asthma, and she began to contribute to papers in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. She also wrote several juvenile stories. She edited the "Colorado Farmer" for two years. The establishment of Arbor Day in Colorado, during Governor Grant's administration, was largely her work. There being no temperance paper in the new West, in 1884 she established the "Challenge," which was immediately adopted by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Prohibition party of Colorado. She edited that paper five years until Compelled by failing strength to lay down a pen which never failed to do service for what she believed to be right. She was one of the organizers of the Woman's Relief Corps in 1883, and was elected national corresponding secretary. From 1885 to 1887 she was president of the Department of Colorado and Wyoming, commanding the respect and love of all the veterans. She has also acted repeatedly on important national committees of the Woman's Relief Corps. A member of the Congregational Church from the age of nine, she was Tor several years secretary of the Rocky Mountain branch of the Woman's Board of Missions. She has often been engaged by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the Good Templars, the Relief Corps and the Grand Army to lecture on temperance, social purity, patriotism and kindred themes, and has many times spoken before the convicts of the Colorado penitentiary. Positions of importance have long been given her by her church in its associations; by the Good Templars as representative to the World's Lodge; by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union as a State lecturer and organizer; by the Governor of Colorado as delegate to the National Conference of Correction and Charities in Louisville, Ky.; by the Prohibitionists of Colorado as delegate to their National Convention in Indianapolis, Intl., and others.