American Widows Watching Out for Each Other

Just as Michelle Obama and many other wives of political leaders are involved with helping enlisted families, so, too, were woman watching out for each other in years gone by. Shapell Manuscript Foundation recently released a series of 10 documents, one of which is a letter written by Libbie Custer to the editor of the Army and Navy Journal. Written on this day 139 years ago, Libbie Custer shows an endearing solidarity with fellow American widows.

The Journal had a fund to aid families of soldiers killed at the Little Big Horn. In the letter, Libbie explains that Annie Yates (widow of Captain George Yates) and Maggie Custer Calhoun (widow of Lieutenant James Calhoun) have been left in precarious financial circumstances.

As she write to Col. Rodenbough in the letter with the Shapell Manuscript Foundation,

“Both need the help and would gratefully accept it. I beg you will consider this letter as strictly confidential for they do not know I intended writing and would object to my so doing. They are not needy but the change in their life is so great I do not see how they can ever learn to adapt themselves to the meager income they will have to submit to.  The fund exceeds so far all their ideas of what was expected to be raised that I cannot think but that they would gladly accept the help and not feel others were being robbed of what they needed.”

Fortunately, the story ended with a happy ending. Libbie ended up receiving $900 from the Army and Navy Journal, while Maggie Calhoun got $510 and Annie Yates received a whopping $1,050.

Dan Kazan

Dan Kazan has had years of experience writing for some of the largest newspapers and magazines in the USA. He was one of the first pioneers in bringing the news online and has focused most of his recent energies into making Left Justified the high quality online news and opinion site which it is.Dan can be reached at dankazan(at)

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