Submitted by the Taconnett Falls Chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society
Amy Morris Bradley was born September 12, 1823. She spent her youth in the family home in East Vassalboro. Her father’s cobblers shop was in the north section of the house. The main house consisted of two front rooms, kitchen, pantry and upstairs chambers. Eight family members lived and worked in this small house.
Amy’s life was dedicated to education and helping others. She taught school in Vassalboro and Gardiner, also, the Winthrop School and Putnam Grammar, in Massachusetts. She suffered from a weak body, but she more than made up for it by forceful determination. Periodically she would return to East Vassalboro to recuperate and then forge ahead again.
During one of her recuperations, she was invited to stay at her sister in law’s family home in Charleston, South Carolina. Being an abolitionist and prohibitionist she had to mute some of her beliefs while she was visiting. Amy was treated very well and soon recovered though the visit did reinforce her views on both slavery and alcohol.
Amy was a governess for a short time in Costa Rica. The plantation owner overstated the opulence of his holdings and treated her more like a servant than teacher. She left that employment and went to the city of San Jose. Having become fluent in Spanish she went on to start the first English School there in 1854. Amy returned to Maine in 1857 to care for her ill father.
The fluency in Spanish that she gained in Costa Rica allowed her to pursue other employment. After her father died, Amy moved to Boston and worked as a translator for different companies.
The Civil War brought her to her toughest task, nursing. She was first attached to the 3rd Maine Regiment, and then put in charge of 5th Maine’s hospital, and then worked for the United States Sanitary Commission. She supervised and worked on the steam transports in the Peninsula Campaign. Before she would allow wounded soldiers on board, the entire boat would have to be cleaned to her particularly high standards. With her success on the transports she was put in charge of the Sanitary Commission’s home in Washington DC, where discharged wounded soldiers began
their journey home. Her final position was head of Camp Convalescent, a wet muddy field that was the hospital for recovering soldiers. She soon put it in order with tents, beds, bedding and decent food. The Soldiers Journal was a newspaper she published for her charges.
After the war, she continued her efforts by working for the Freemans Bureau setting up schools for freed slaves and poor white children. One of the things that she discovered was that a hungry child would not do well academically. Amy set up kitchens at her schools so that the pupils had at least one nutritious meal a day. She established the first Normal School and is considered the founder of the school system in Wilmington, North Carolina. She died there January 15, 1904 and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery.
Headstrong, the biography of Amy Morris Bradley, by Diane Cobb Cashman is the source for this article.
Kent G. London
President Kennebec Historical Society
Treasurer Vassalboro Historical Society
Member Taconnett Falls Chapter
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