A Fragile Legacy: The Contributions of Women in the United States Sanitary Commission to the United States Administrative State
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Purpose: During the United States Civil War, the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) was established to ensure hospitals and field camps met health standards, and to deliver needed supplies to Union soldiers. The supply arm of the USSC was managed by women. Employing the efforts of 7,000 ladies’ aid societies, the women distributed supplies through regional hubs. The USSC became a national organization which delivered more than twenty-million dollars worth of supplies. The importance of history cannot be over stated; however, for the past to be usable, it must be accurate. By examining the history of the United States Sanitary Commission, using original Civil War era documents, this paper explores whether the Commission meets the criteria of an organization that can be considered part of the administrative state. Method: To explore the methods of operation of the United States Sanitary Commission, this research uses seven working hypotheses based on Richard Stillman’s seven characteristics of the administrative state. The hypotheses were tested using original documents of the Sanitary Commission. Findings: The results support the theory that the United States Sanitary Commission meets all the criteria and is therefore an organization that qualifies as an example of the United States administrative state.