Mrs. Emma L. Miller

This story is from the VA Public Affairs Office


Mrs. Emma L. Miller was the first woman employee in the Veteran’s Administration early history.  She was appointed as the first matron at the Central Branch NHDVS in Dayton (now Dayton VAMC) in the fall of 1867.

Prior to her appointment, she worked with the U.S. Sanitary Commission at their Cleveland and Cincinnati branches  during the Civil War and was appointed as matron of the Ohio Soldiers Home in Columbus in October 1865.  When the U.S. government established a branch of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (later named National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers) it initially took over the state home in Columbus, but later selected a site in Dayton as its permanent location.  Miss Miller brought 16 disabled “boys in blue” with her to the new Dayton site in the fall of 1867.

She helped at the hospital, oversaw laundry operations, ran the Home’s hotel, and was eventually elevated to Superintendent of the general depot, where much of the clothing and supplies for all of the National Homes were manufactured and distributed–a rare position to held by a woman, in those days. In the 1880 annual report, she reported that the “Matron’s Department” had washed, pressed, repaired, and reissued over 1,703,648 pieces of laundry and linens, averaging 32,762 pieces per week.  Worn out linens were condemned, then washed and reused in the hospital as bandages and dressings, in the engineer’s department as wipers and wrappings for steam-pipes, and as wipers and mops elsewhere.

Emma Miller was a fixture at the Dayton home for nearly 50 years and she lived on-site. She spent her entire post-Civil War life at the home and grew old with many of the men whom she originally cared for during the war. Emma Miller died in her quarters at the National Home on January 18, 1914 and is buried in the Dayton National Cemetery (formerly the National Home’s cemetery).

Emma L Miller obit(1)

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on January 20, 1914


Many Pay Tribute of Love and Respect to “Little Mother of Home”

Military Funeral Accorded Little Woman Who Spent Half Century

In Loyal Service to the United States

     Obsequies in respect to Mrs. Emma L. Miller, the “Little Mother of the Soldiers,” who died Sunday morning at the Soldiers’ Home, were celebrated in the Soldiers’ Home chapel at 2 o’clock Tuesday afternoon.  The rites consisted of church services at the chapel and military services at the grave.

The church ceremony was in charge of Rev. Arthur Dumper, rector of Christ’s Episcopal church, of which Mrs. Miller had been a faithful member of forty years.  Rev. Dumper read the Episcopalean burial service for the dead, beginning at the twentieth verse of the fifteenth chapter of the First Corinthians, and continuing until the end of the chapter.  The opening verse of the chapter, that is Paul’s argument in favor of life beyond the grave, reads as follows:  “Now is Christ risen from the dead and become first fruits of them that has slept.”

Following the service at the church, the body was escorted to the Home cemetery and laid to rest in a grave selected on the officers’ lot.  The burial was accompanied with scenes of military pomp such as has honored few women in this country, and only the women of the royalty in other countries.  The firing of the last salute over the grave by the firing squad and the sounding of taps on the bugle were parts of the ceremony that were peculiarly impressive.

The ceremony at the grave was in charge of Chaplains McDonald and Coombs, of the Home.

No such honors have been accorded any officer of the home as was accorded Mrs. Miller Tuesday.  The military character of the funeral lent a special significance to the occasion.  The attendance at the funeral was very large.  All the officers of the Home were there as well as every veteran whose infirmities did not prevent him from attending.  The military post of the Soldiers’ Home as well as the two military posts in Dayton were well represented.

The pall bearers included the officers of the Home as well as Lieutenant Oscar Gottschall of the board of managers.

Wrapped in an American flag the body of Mrs. Miller lay in state in the chapel of the Home from ten o’clock Tuesday morning until the time of the funeral.  It is estimated that several thousand veterans took a final look at the kindly features of the “little mother.”

The following announcement of the death of Mrs. Miller was made by Colonel White, governor of the Home:

I.              It becomes the sad duty of the Governor to announce the death, at her quarters at the Home Hospital, at 7:10 A. M., January 18, 1914, of Mrs. E. L. Miller, Superintendent of the General Depot, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

II.             Mrs. Miller had not been feeling well for some time, but had attended to her official duties as usual until November 21, 1913, when, by the advice of the Surgeon, she finally consented to remain at home. This illness, which marked the beginning of a general weakening of the vital forces that slowly but surely failed, in spite of the strong will which had won many a hard fight against age and physical weakness.

III.            Mrs. Miller had numbered more than four-score years, nearly fifty of which had been passed in the service of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers; and during all of these years she had lived at the Central Branch, of which she was the first Matron, having reported there with the first detachment of members in the fall of 1867.  During the Civil War she was actively engaged in the work of the Sanitary Commission, and later was in the service of the State of Ohio, helping to care for the disabled soldiers at Camp Chase, until they were transferred to the Central Branch in 1867.  For many years prior to her death she was the superintendent of the General Depot of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, where much of the clothing of the various Branches of the Home was manufactured, and from which all clothing and large quantities of supplies were distributed to the various Branches, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from South Dakota to Tennessee.  Those characteristics which in a man go to make up the “Captains of Industry:” were, in Mrs. Miller, blended with rare innate refinement and dainty womanliness, which life-long association with, and control of men as well as women in the public service, never impaired in the slightest degree.  Respected, trusted and admired by her official superiors, loved in an unusual degree by her subordinates and those to whom she had ministered in hospital ward or in the home circle and highly esteemed by all who knew her, Mrs. Miller’s death, after the longest term of official service in the history of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, will leave a void that can scarcely be filled.

IV.           At her special request she will be buried in the Home cemetery with those for whom she lived and labored, and her funeral, which will be a simple military one, as she desired, will be from the Protestant Chapel at 2 o’clock P. M., January 20, 1914.

V.            During the funeral service all unnecessary labor will be suspended at the Branch.

By Order of



A. S. Galbraith, Adjutant.


Copy of Dayton_2007_EmmaMillerhdstone

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