1861 : First Ladies Soldiers Aid Society Organized in Detroit

November 6, 2020 all-day

Members of the Michigan Soldiers’ Relief Association stand outside their tent at White House Landing, Virginia, photo from Library of Congress

On Nov. 6, 1861, the nation’s first Ladies Soldiers Aid Society organized in Detroit to supply comfort to Civil War soldiers at hospitals, camps and battlefields.

As soldiers marched off to war, Michigan women made them food and supplies. These concerned citizens inundated the Army with care packages for their boys. One enthusiastic woman sent her son a honeycomb wrapped in a new shirt!

By the fall of 1861, local aid societies were formed throughout Michigan. These included the Soldiers’ Aid Society of Detroit – called the Michigan Soldiers’ Aid Society after summer 1863. It was created on November 6, 1861. It worked in cooperation with the U.S. Sanitary Commission to ensure that supplies arrived undamaged into the hands of the soldiers most in need of them. As local communities provided donations, goods were sorted and forwarded by steamship and train to depots near the battlefront. There, supplies could be given directly to regiments most in need.

Three other state-wide relief groups worked alongside the Soldiers’ Aid Society: the Michigan Soldiers’ Relief Association, the Michigan Soldiers’ Relief Committee and the Michigan branch of the U.S. Christian Commission. These groups solicited cash and donations of food and supplies from Michigan citizens through word of mouth, leaflets and newspaper advertisements. Numerous local level aid societies sprang up in Michigan towns and cities. After the first year of the war, however, smaller groups funneled their donations through one of the larger aid organizations.


Relief for Soldiers from Seeking Michigan, April 26, 2011.

Michigan Soldiers’ Aid Society

For more general information about Ladies Soldiers Aid Societies, see Jane McGrath, “How Ladies’ Aid Societies Worked”, How Stuff Works.

Soldiers’ Aid Society Package

Natural Allies: Women’s Associations in American History / Anne Firor Scott. Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c1991. Especially chapter 3.

Patriotic Toil: Northern Women and the American Civil War / Jeanie Attie. Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 1998.

Women in the Civil War / Mary Elizabeth Massey. Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

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