Esther “Hettie” (Kersey) Painter (1820-1889)
Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska
Dr. Hettie K. Painter, who directed the work of the Army Corps Nurses during the Civil War, had graduated from Penn Medical College in 1860.
When the Civil War began she organized the first hospital
south of the Potomac under the direction of General Phil Kearny. After the Battle of Bull Run, she followed the New Jersey volunteers into the field where she ministered to their medical needs.
Dr. Painter’s son was a telegrapher of the encampment at Hatcher’s Run. When she visited him Christmas Day in 1864 at a Negro cabin where he had his instruments set up, he had just relayed a telegram from Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman to President Lincoln in Washington DC.
She was a petite, calm-faced Quaker woman with a kind smile and the confident inspiring manner of a true physician. She was prominent in temperance, suffrage and other reform movements.
When the war ended she practiced medicine in Washington DC, Alexandria, VA, Salt Lake City, Utah, and finally in Lincoln, Nebraska, where her husband had come to work as editor of a semi-monthly farm journal, the “Nebraska Patron.”
She opened an infirmary at what is now 15th & U Streets, where she practiced “the application of electricity for acute and chronic cases.” Historical documents identify
the infirmary as “the first institution of its kind in the West” and she had patients from as far away as Connecticut and California.
Her obituary August 9, 1889 said “the old soldiers have lost a true friend, one ever ready to do good for the veterans in times of peace as she did a quarter of a century ago amid
the clash of arms.” She is buried in Wyuka Cemetery, Lincoln, Nebraska.
Two Nebraska Tents were named after her. In 1890 the first Nebraska DUV Tent was organized in Kearney and named H. K. Painter No.1. In 1936 the DUV Tent organized in Columbus was named Hettie K Painter Tent No. 27.
– Most of this information is taken, almost word for word,
from the Department History written 1978. This biography will
be updated soon, incorporating much more information.