IUPUI Professor's Role in New PBS Show "Mercy Street"


Update 3/7/16 9:44 a.m.: It was originally said throughout the story that "Mercy Street" aired on CBS. It has been changed to reflect that it airs on PBS. 


After studying 19th century literature, illness narrative, and literature and medicine for the past 30 years, Jane Schultz has also published two books among other works. One of which was read by the creator of the show, "Mercy Street," which lead them to her.

"Mercy Street" is a new drama series set in Alexandria, Virginia during the Civil War that shows the lives of nurses, doctors, and others affected by the war. Though this is a drama, Schultz’s contribution will lend some historical accuracies to the show.

Schultz has taught various literature classes at IUPUI for 28 years. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and lived there until she was 18. Afterwards, she left and went to Stanford University to study literature. Growing up, books were a huge influence on her life.

“My parents were always reading which I guess made me a reader too,” she said. “I think my interest when I got a bit older was very historical. I wanted to understand the context in which literature was being written.“

Schultz read a book called “Rifles for Watie” when she was in the forth grade. This sparked a love for the civil war that continued into college and beyond. During her 10 years at the University of Michigan studying for her masters, she discovered a collection of literature from many medical works during the Civil War.

“I’ve been just fascinated with the Civil War my whole life. So I started thinking at that point, ‘gee I wonder what people had to say about their experience of being on Civil War battlefields, and women in particular’” Schultz said.

Upon completing her PhD at the University of Michigan, she moved to Indianapolis and began her career at IUPUI.

“It occurred to me in doing all of this work and reading that when I came to IUPUI, the story I really wanted to tell was about the health care systems of the war and women’s role as relief workers and nurses and also how that role influences women in the studied of medicine which had been barred to them until after the Civil War period,” Schultz said.

Jane. Schultz, image provided by IUPUI

Jane. Schultz, image provided by IUPUI

Schultz is also very interested in how illness can affect a storyteller, especially after fighting off two different kinds of cancer. She currently teaches a class about illness narrative and used creative writing to help her cope her cancer.

“We’re the accumulation of many moments of being. Whatever our experiences happen to be shape us in ways that no one can imagine, even ourselves. Each person is so unique because no one lives the same lives.”

Schultz has published two books. “This Birth Place of Souls" is actually a diary Schultz transcribed and annotated in order to give context to what is written. “Women at the Front” is a biographical piece about hospital workers during the Civil War. This book was used in the creation of “Mercy Street.”

The “Mercy Street” recognition has been incredibly fulfilling for me because I knew more than 30 years ago when I started in this area of 19th century literature that there was a story that really needed to be told.”

Mercy Street” airs on Sundays at 9:00 p.m. or for free on the PBS website.

“One of the things that I think is difficult for young scholars is even when you know you’re doing really good work, it takes so long for your work to circulate... all the work I did as a young scholar... all the work I did in my classrooms... all of that is now, I suppose, coming home to roost. I feel satisfied.”