By: Jane Grey Swisshelm (1815-1884)
In the spring of 1850, while the United States was polarized over the slavery debate and Daniel Webster was negotiating the compromise of that year, the outspoken abolitionist, feminist, and journalist, Jane Grey Swisshelm unleashed a congressional sex scandal. Frustrated by what she saw as the Massachusetts senator's surrender to the Southern Slave Power, she published an article alleging Webster's marital infidelities with women of color. As a result of the media storm that followed, Swisshelm lost her job at the New York Tribune. This is but one of the many episodes found in her 1880 autobiography, "Half a Century," which is a narrative of the frontier, of the fight against slavery, and of Swisshelm's fearless, compassionate, and innovative work as a surgical nurse treating Union soldiers who had suffered the most terrible wounds of war.