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Dictionary of Virginia Biography


Oriana Russell Moon Andrews (11 August 1834–26 December 1883), physician, was born at Viewmont in Albemarle County and was the daughter of Edward Harris Moon, a wealthy planter and merchant, and Anna Maria Barclay Moon. Her parents, who valued education highly, hired tutors for their daughters and sons and arranged for them to attend academically rigorous schools. Her sister Charlotte (Lottie) Digges Moon received an excellent education and after the Civil War lived in China for many years as a teacher and Baptist missionary.

Orie Moon, as she signed her name and was familiarly known, attended Emma Willard's Troy Female Seminary (later the Emma Willard School) in Troy, New York, during the 1850–1851 school year, and from 1854 to 1857 studied medicine at the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania (later Woman's College of Pennsylvania) in Philadelphia. Founded in 1850, it was one of the first medical schools for women in the United States. Moon studied for three five-month sessions, wrote her thesis on the "Mutual Relation Between Cardiac and Pulmonary Disease," and received her medical degree on 28 February 1857, along with six other women in her graduating class. She was evidently the school's first Virginia graduate, although not the first southerner.

In 1858 Moon accompanied her uncle, Disciples of Christ missionary James Turner Barclay, on an extended trip to Jerusalem. She may also have visited France and Egypt. As a young woman she had reportedly been skeptical about or perhaps even rejected Christianity as she championed women's rights, but while abroad she experienced a sudden religious conversion, and her uncle baptized her in Jerusalem. After Moon returned to Virginia she may have treated members of her family but did not attempt to establish her own medical practice.

In June 1861 some women in Charlottesville asked Moon to nurse the wounded and sick soldiers there. Moon offered to enter the medical service on behalf of the Confederacy and hoped to serve in a surgical hospital to assist with surgeries. She made a temporary arrangement with the medical faculty at the University of Virginia, where the Confederacy had established a military hospital, and supervised a ward there. A correspondent to the Richmond Daily Dispatch late in July described Moon as "a young lady of the neighborhood, to whose skillful and experienced hands the care of a ward has been entrusted."

On 28 November 1861, Moon married Tennessee native John Summerfield Andrews, a physician in an Alabama regiment who had become an assistant surgeon at the hospital that July. Suffering from ill health, he resigned in February 1862 but remained a practicing physician. Thereafter she evidently nursed only members of her own family, a considerable job in itself, as during the next two decades she gave birth to eight sons, two of whom died before their first birthdays. Attitudes regarding women doctors likely made establishing or maintaining a practice difficult, especially in the South. The demands of domesticity and her children, when combined with a general distrust of women doctors, limited her to nursing duties even though she had a medical degree. Dr. Edward Warren, medical inspector of the Army of Northern Virginia, expressed some of the prevailing attitudes about women in medicine when he recalled witnessing Moon's work at the Charlottesville hospital. He wrote that she was "a lady of high character and of fine intelligence," a "rara-avis," or rare bird. Warren admitted that she was an excellent nurse, but "unfortunately for her professional prospects" she married Andrews and thereafter devoted "herself to the care of her own babies—like a sensible woman." Warren concluded condescendingly that women should not "dream of entering the ranks of the medical profession."

Following the end of the war the family lived in Alabama and Tennessee, where Orie Moon Andrews provided occasional medical care to her female neighbors. John Andrews's inability to establish a profitable practice induced them to move several times before they returned to Albemarle County in 1874. The 1880 census identified her as keeping house for her family in nearby Buckingham County, not practicing medicine. By June 1882 she and her husband had established and jointly ran a hospital for women and children in Scottsville. Oriana Russell Moon Andrews died of pneumonia, perhaps a complication of cancer or some other undisclosed lingering illness, in Scottsville on 26 December 1883 and was buried there in the Presbyterian Cemetery (later Scottsville Cemetery).


Sources Consulted:
Feature article (with some errors) in Roanoke World-News, 12 July 1940 (portrait), and "Dr. Oriana Moon, A Confederate Doctor," online biography, Scottsville Museum website; birth and death dates in transcriptions of Moon Family Bible and John Summerfield Andrews Family Bible records, Accession 30391 MBRC 15, Library of Virginia, and on gravestone; attendance records and thesis, Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, Archives and Special Collections on Women in Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, Penn.; religious conversion reported (with name given as "Miss Moore") in Millennial Harbinger (ser. 5) 1 (1858): 582–583, and 2 (1859): 257–260; Orie R. Moon to John H. Cocke, 19 July 1861, and Lottie Moon to Cocke, 27 July 1861, John Hartwell Cocke Papers, 1725–1949, Accession 640, Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.; Richmond Daily Dispatch, 1 Aug. 1861 (first quotation), 30 July 1882; Albemarle Co. Marriage License; Edward Warren, A Doctor's Experiences on Three Continents (1885), 279–280 (other quotations); United States Census Schedules, Hardin Co., Tennessee (1870), Buckingham Co., Virginia (1880), Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; Charlottesville Jeffersonian Republican, 14 June 1882; Death Register, Albemarle Co., Bureau of Vital Statistics, Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia.


Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Jennifer Davis McDaid.

How to cite this page:
Jennifer Davis McDaid,"Oriana Russell Moon Andrews (1834–1883)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2016 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Andrews_Oriana_Russell_Moon, accessed [today's date]).


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