(orchestral music) - [Narrator] Lydia Ely Hewitt, Fanny Burling Buttrick, and Hannah Vedder were part of a volunteer group of young women whose efforts eventually brought a permanent national home for disabled and homeless soldiers, now called the Milwaukee Soldiers Home.
Today, it sits on more than 90 acres behind the home of the Milwaukee Brewers.
(orchestral music) In March of 1865, President Lincoln called on the nation to build a Soldiers home system across the nation to care for veterans.
It was a pretty good idea.
That's why Lydia, Fanny, Hannah, and other young women were already doing it in Milwaukee in temporary storefronts.
The lady managers, as they were sometimes called, said this of their temporary home.
"It is not a wayside charity or a transient recreation, but a serious and permanent assumption of a sacred duty which we owe the defenders of our common country.
It is an embodied declaration that we at home acknowledge our obligations and are willing to share with our heroes the arduous responsibilities of the hour."
- [Lydia] We're starting to see that even a little bit in our own soldier's home.
Some of the men that come through, they're just so shattered.
We have to do something to try to put them back together again after the war.
- [Narrator] These women patriots want to tell you a little bit more about themselves.
- I'm Lydia Ely.
I was born on December 3rd, 1833 in Homer, Michigan.
I went to school in Milwaukee and quickly developed a love for art.
I married Gideon Hewitt Jr. in 1852.
We were a prosperous and prominent family in the city.
I led a group of women who founded what would become the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, and I did it all in my early thirties.
I was known as the Woman Patriot and dedicated my later years to honoring Milwaukee's veterans through public art, including the Victorious Charge monument that you've probably seen outside the Milwaukee Public Library.
I died on December 21st, 1914, and I'm buried at Forest Home Cemetery.
(orchestral music) - [Narrator] Lydia didn't want to brag about her art, but we found out that two of her paintings are at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend.
Remember, Lydia had the idea of exhibiting fine art at the Soldiers Fair to raise money for a permanent home for war veterans in need of housing.
She would've been happy to see all the artwork displayed inside the now renovated old main residence building for veterans at risk for homelessness.
- My name is Fanny Burling and I was born in New York City in 1831.
After getting my education, I moved to Green Lake, Wisconsin where I married Edwin Buttrick, a lawyer from Oshkosh.
We moved to Milwaukee in 1854, and quickly held a wealthy stature in the community.
I became a member of the West Side Soldiers Aid Society and worked alongside Lydia Ely Hewitt and Hannah Vedder, among others, in creating the temporary and now permanent soldiers homes in Milwaukee.
I died when I was only 40, and I'm buried at the Forest Home Cemetery.
- [Narrator] Hannah Vedder also joined forces with Lydia and Fanny in aiding our veterans.
Unfortunately, we couldn't find any images of Hannah, so we had to improvise.
- [Hannah] I came to Milwaukee with my parents in 1849.
During the Civil War, I was very active in helping heal our soldiers.
I became one of the vice presidents of an organization called the Soldiers' Home Society that began in December of 1862.
I later became a member of the West Side Soldiers' Aid Society along with Lydia and Fanny.
I died in 1910 and like my fellow lady patriots, I am buried at Forest Home Cemetery.
(engine rumbling) - [Narrator] Our next episode explores the West Side Soldiers' Aid Society, the group these three women were involved with in the late 19th century.
The society was resurrected more than 100 years later by a new generation of Milwaukee women, including our reenactors.
That's on the next "The Women Founders: Milwaukee Soldiers Home".