Vienna Soldier's Aid Society

The Vienna Soldiers' Aid Society was formed by women residents of the Township in late 1861 to raise funds and provide supplies for Union soldiers during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Mobilizing Women's Work for War

The mobilization and material support of a mass army stressed federal and state governments' abilities and resources. Only three weeks after the firing on Ft. Sumter, the Western Reserve Chronicle carried a plea for blankets for the enlistees gathering at Camp Dennison, near Cincinnati. "We are requested to say to ladies in the adjacent townships, who are willing to furnish blankets for the soldiers (and of which they are reported to be greatly in need,) that they are requested to leave them with Mrs. H. R. Harmon, of [Warren], by whom they they will be forwarded to Fort Dennison. Thick quilts and woolen coverlids are the best." A week later, the call was put out for "mattresses, sheets, pillow cases, socks, flannel shirts, &c." [Western Reserve Chronicle, May 8, 1861, p. 2]

This was women's work, and women in Vienna responded by organizing their own soldiers' aid society, one of 525 societies organized as the Soldiers' Aid Society of Northern Ohio. This was the first society organized under the United States Sanitary Commission. Vienna's society was linked to other soldiers' aid societies in the nation through the coordinating efforts of the Sanitary Commission. The Sanitary Commission raised $25 million--mostly the result of door-to-door canvassing by women--to fund nursing training and nurses, hospital ships, and clean camp kitchens.

Vienna Soldiers' Aid Society members knitted socks, mittens and gloves, and hats, sewed blankets, shirts, and uniforms, and gathered food and medical supplies for the Union Army. The Sanitary Commission organized regional "depots" through which these goods were routed to soldiers in camp and on the battlefield. Cleveland was the Sanitary Commission’s depot in Northern Ohio.

In February 1864, the region's women organized the Northern Ohio Sanitary Fair on Cleveland's Public Square. The Sanitary Fair raised over $78,000 in two weeks. The booth created by the women of Trumbull County was "crowded ... with things of beauty and utility": scarves, sontags (crocheted or knitted women's jackets), children's clothing, shawls, canvas embroidery, and fancy knitting. The motto, "Old Trumbull, slow but sure," appeared on a banner above the booth, decorated with "hangings of tinted gauze, festooned and trimmed with evergreens."

Vienna Women's Work

At the end of the war the Vienna Soldiers' Aid Society reported that its members had raised $112.22 and an unknown quantity of supplies for the soldiers. The Society's activities were reported from time to time in the Western Reserve Chronicle, and from these letters we learn what the women gathered, made, and provided to the troops. Society secretary Laura Woodford reported the year's work in a letter published in the Chronicle on January 28, 1863:

During the past year this Society has sent to the Cleveland Aid Society twelve boxes and four barrels of hospital supplies, containing the following articles, 35 bed quilts, 28 sheets, 60 shirts, 45 pairs drawers, 224 towels, 11 abdominal bandages, 5 handkerchiefs, 28 pillows, 132 pillowcases, 1832 yards bandages, 6 wrappers, 20 pairs socks, 3 pairs mittens, 4 night caps, 22 pin cushions, 12 lbs. lint, 12 lbs. compresses, 1 woolen blanket, 1 pair pants, 1 vest, 1 pair slippers, 3 linen coats, 70 cans concentrated chicken, 177 lbs. dried apples, 33 ½ lbs. dried currants, cherries, &c., 22 ½ lbs. maple sugar, 10 lbs. dried beef, 2 ½ bsh. onions, 2 doz eggs, 1 doz lemons, 3 packages herbs, 76 tracts, paper, and magazines, and some other small items.

At the beginning of 1862, the Society’s treasury contained $5.11, but throughout the year the amount grew by donations to $91.96. The women spent $59.77 to purchase supplies, leaving a balance of $32.19. Ready to be sent were “4 bed quilts, 5 woolen shirts, ½ bush. onions, and a small quantity of dried fruit.”

Members of the Vienna Soldiers' Aid Society included Mrs. Sarah Sanford (president), Mrs. John Williams (president), Mrs. S. C. Treat (vice-president), Miss Helen L. Betts (secretary), Mrs. J. J. Holliday (treasurer), Mrs. Dr. Spencer, Mrs. Lucius Hull, Mrs. Calvin Williams, Mrs. Mathew Mackey, Mrs. Smith Scovill, Miss Lucia Squires, Miss Kate Williams (vice-president), Miss Docia Squires (secretary), Miss Libbie Woodford (treasurer), Mrs. Laura Woodford (vice-president, secretary), Mrs. Judson Griffis, and Mrs. Morrison Perkins.

Primary Documents

Transcribed letters from Vienna Soldiers' Aid Society to the Soldiers' Aid Society of Northern Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio, are in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society: United States Sanitary Commission, Cleveland Branch, Volume 18, Contain 16. Click here for the letters.

Contributor: Shirley T. Wajda

Updated 8/13/2020
Attie, Jeanie. Patriotic Toil: Northern Women and the American Civil War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998).Brayton, Mary Clark, and Ellen F. Terry, Our Acre and Its Harvest (Cleveland: Fairbanks, Benedict & Co., 1869). [an account of the Northern Ohio Soldiers' Aid Society's activities]
Gordon, Beverly. Bazaars and Fair Ladies: The History of the American Fundraising Fair (Nashville: University of Tennessee Press, 1998), chapter 3.
Wajda, Shirley. "Mobilizing the Home Front." New York Times, October 13, 2012.