What did you think of "Mercy Street?"

The first episode of the PBS drama "Mercy Street" aired last night. Mansion House Hospital was noisy, chaotic, and rather dark. It was contrasted with a quiet, spacious ward in an unnamed Washington hospital, where Dorothy Dix held sway. Not sure the Washington hospitals were quite so pristine, and soon Alexandria would have its own "purpose-built" hospitals, but no matter.

Mary Phinney (left photo, above) was indeed a baron's widow (not sure if the audience got all the references to German delicacies without knowing that).

Her son published her experiences several decades later:

Miss Dix, who had been appointed by the President head of the army nurses, took me from Washington to Alexandria to the Mansion House Hospital. She told me on the journey that the surgeon in charge was determined to give her no foothold in any hospital where he reigned, and that I was to take no notice of anything that might occur, and was to make no complaint whatever might happen. She was a stern woman of few words.

There seemed to be much confusion about the Mansion House--which before the war was a famous hotel--and every part of it was crowded.....

As for the family of Emma Green (right photo, above), the Southern family who owned the hotel--according to researchers Don and Margaret Ann DeBatts, James Green was born in England and came to the US as an adolescent. They assume he would have spoken with at least a trace of a British accent, given the age when he came. Their main business was furniture (referred to in the program when they propose making coffins). They supplied so much furniture to hotels that they figured they might as well get into the business, too.

They were supposed to received $750/month rent for use of the hospital, a goodly sum for the period. But, they didn't get any of it until years later.


Print Friendly and PDF