Alice Berry Graham (1850 - 1913) and Katherine Berry Richardson (1858-1933)

Alice Berry was born in 1850 in Warren, Pennsylvania. Her younger sister Katherine was born eight years later, after the family had moved to Kentucky. Alice taught school in order to send her younger sister to college. Katherine received her bachelor and master of philosophy degrees from Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio. She then attended the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, where she completed her medical degree in 1887. Returning the favor, Katherine taught school for a year to enable Alice to complete her dental degree from the Philadelphia Dental College. In late 1887, the two sisters started a medical practice in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

By 1897 both sisters were living in Kansas City, Missouri. Katherine Berry Richardson and Alice Berry Graham established a medical practice in the downtown area. Since no hospital in the city allowed a woman physician on the staff at the time, the sisters rented beds in a small maternity and children’s hospital for their patients. In 1899 Richardson and Graham decided to purchase the hospital, naming it the Free Bed Fund Association for Crippled, Deformed, and Ruptured Children. The small hospital was soon renamed the Children’s Mercy Hospital. A larger building was purchased in 1904, and within a decade a larger facility was again needed. Though Alice Berry Graham died of cancer in 1913, Katherine Berry Richardson continued in her untiring dedication to the care of ill children. Construction of a 4-story hospital began in 1916 and was completed in 1917. At the insistence of Richardson, the cornerstone inscription honored her sister: “In 1897 Dr. Alice Berry Graham founded this hospital for sick and crippled children – to be forever non-sectarian, non-local, and for those who cannot pay.”

Richardson was also interested in the care of African-American children in the then-segregated Kansas City. Richardson became involved in the Wheatley-Provident Hospital, the only hospital owned and controlled by the black citizens of Kansas City. A pediatrics training program for physicians and a pediatric surgical residency program were established by Richardson, as well as a “model ward” for children.

Katherine Berry Richardson specialized in plastic surgery of the face, including correcting harelips and cleft palates. She never retired, and continued performing surgery until a few days before her death on June 3, 1933. In 1970 Children’s Mercy Hospital opened a new facility at 24th and Gillam Road, where it continues in its founders’ tradition to treat ill children, regardless of ability to pay. The hospital has been recognized by Child magazine as one of the Top 10 children’s hospitals in the United States.