Pember, Phoebe Yates Levy

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    Full name
    Phoebe Yates Levy Pember
    Place of Birth
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    Slave State
    No. of Spouses
    Thomas Pember (husband)
    Writer or Artist
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    Phoebe Yates Levy Pember, At Chimborazo (American National Biography)

    Pember wrote of her experiences at Chimborazo Hospital in A Southern Woman's Story, published in 1879. In it she recounts her struggles with the staff and with patients and their families. Pember was the first woman administrator at Chimborazo, and many of the male physicians were reluctant to allow her to attend to her duties….

    Pember proudly claimed that she "learned to make requisitions and to use my power." Still, using power required almost constant effort. Pember faced difficulties arranging food for patients, the result of both their unwillingness to eat unfamiliar dishes and of physicians who refused to write orders acceding to patients' dietary idiosyncrasies. She also struggled with the consequences of inadequate supplies, claiming "calm courage" was required just to count the number of people to be fed. Pember fought hard to maintain the good will of patients who were angered by her willingness to care for Confederate soldiers from Maryland. She found herself frequently provoked by the presence of patients' family members, who interfered with hospital routine, required food, and, on one occasion, tried to usurp her office for their living quarters.
    Marli F. Weiner, "Pember, Phoebe Yates Levy," American National Biography Online, February 2000,

    Phoebe Yates Levy Pember, Wartime Struggles (American National Biography)

    Pember's memoir of her wartime experiences also includes a description of a trip from Richmond to Georgia and back during a temporary leave of absence in October 1864. Her dramatic account chronicled the difficulties of wartime travel, even with transportation provided by the government, particularly for a woman alone. At one point only the timely intervention of a friend prevented her from being attacked by a man who assumed a respectable woman would not be alone.

    Pember remained at her post in Richmond until after Federal officials took over the hospital. During those confused days, Pember reported, she brazenly took or stole what she needed to feed the patients remaining in her care. She armed herself and used the gun for self defense when threatened by malingerers looking for alcohol. Pember remained at the hospital until the remaining men were either convalescent or dead. Loyal friends provided her with food in the chaos.
    Marli F. Weiner, "Pember, Phoebe Yates Levy," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
    How to Cite This Page: "Pember, Phoebe Yates Levy," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,