Wealthy women, through their generous donations of money and time, made possible the expansion of services and institutions in the health sciences. Prominent benefactors in St. Louis include Rachel Stix Michael, Carlyn H. Wohl and Harriet Baur Spoehrer.

Rachel Stix Michael
Rachel Stix Michael, 1935

Rachel Stix was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1866 and came to St. Louis in 1884. In 1886 she married Elias Michael, the president of the Rice-Stix Dry Goods Company. After the death of their only child Selma, who died in 1894 at the age of seven, Rachel Stix Michael found comfort in volunteer activity. She devoted the remaining 42 years of her life to public service.

After the death of Elias Michael in 1913, Rachel Stix Michael studied social service methods at the Boston General Hospital and at the School of Social Economy in St. Louis. She then worked as a member of the Social Service Department of Washington University Dispensary, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and the Jewish Day Nursery. During the First World War, Mrs. Michael served as chair of the instruction committee of the Missouri Women’s Committee of National Defense, which trained women to take positions vacated by men entering military service.

Rachel Stix Michael was one of the founders of the Missouri Association for Occupational Therapy in 1918 and 1919. She served as vice president until 1933 when she was elected president. Michael was the primary force behind the establishment of the St. Louis Training School for Reconstruction Aides, later called the St. Louis School of Occupational Therapy. Her interest in occupational therapy developed from her desire to help the men and women who were maimed and shell-shocked during World War I.

In 1922 St. Louis Mayor Henry Kiel appointed Rachel Stix Michael to the Board of Education. While serving on the Board, Mrs. Michael developed an interest for providing education to handicapped children. Through her efforts the St. Louis Board of Education established the first public school for crippled children in 1925, the Elias Michael School. A school for handicapped African-American children, the Turner School, was opened soon after. The Women’s Advertising Club named Rachel Stix Michael as one of the 10 outstanding women of St. Louis in 1931. In 1933 she was presented with the Governor’s medallion for distinguished civic service.

A generous benefactress, Mrs. Michael gave a yearly contribution of $1,000 to the Washington University School of Medicine for the establishment of a German exchange fellowship in Pediatrics. In September 1936 Rachel Stix Michael died and bequeathed $232,750 to Washington University, of which $150,000 was to be used to establish a chair in Occupational Therapy in the Washington University School of Medicine. Since 1938 each director of the Program in Occupational Therapy, Washington University School of Medicine, has been appointed to the Elias Michael Professorship.

Carlyn H. Wohl
Carlyn H. Wohl, 1960

Carlyn Hartman was born in 1894 and grew up in Chillicothe, Missouri. She moved to St. Louis in the 1920s, where she met and married David P. Wohl, founder of the Wohl Shoe Company. In 1940 the Wohls established the Wohl Foundation for Charitable and Educational Purposes. Until its dissolution in 1970, the Foundation contributed more than $9 million to charitable institutions in St. Louis. Carlyn Wohl managed the foundation after her husband’s death in 1960.

Through both personal gifts and their Foundation, the Wohls contributed to several local institutions, including Washington and St. Louis Universities; Lutheran and Homer G. Phillips Hospitals; St. Louis Children’s and the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis; the Visiting Nurse Association; the Central Institute for the Deaf; Jewish Community Centers Association; Dismas House; the St. Louis Symphony and Art Museum; and the Greater St. Louis Fund for Arts and Education.

The Wohls contributed $300,000 towards the construction of the Carlyn H. Wohl Research Center as a unit of the Washington University School of Dentistry. Over one million dollars was given for the construction of the David P. Wohl, Jr. Memorial Hospital, built to honor their son who lost his life in the Second World War. The Wohls donated $2 million toward the construction of the David P. Wohl, Jr. Memorial, which housed the Washington University Clinics. In 1965 Carlyn Wohl honored her two daughters by donating $500,000 to the Jewish Hospital to establish the Frances Wohl Marcus and Elizabeth Wohl Rothschild Research Fund.

Carlyn Wohl served on the boards of directors of many organizations, including the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis and the Central Institute for the Deaf. In 1971 the St. Louis Globe-Democrat named Carlyn Wohl one of its Women of Achievement for her creative philanthropy. She died in 1987 at the age of 92.

Harriet Baur Spoehrer
Harriet Baur Spoehrer

Harriet Baur Spoehrer, a native of St. Louis, was a 1928 graduate of Washington University. She was active for years in many St. Louis civic and charitable institutions, especially those serving health and education. She served on the boards of directors of St. Louis Children’s Hospital, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and Central Institute for the Deaf.

Harriet Spoehrer was a major benefactor of and active volunteer for the St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She was a regularly assigned volunteer at the hospital, serving at the information desk and, on occasion, in the lunchroom. (Prior to her marriage to Hermann F. Spoehrer, Harriet was the assistant manager of a St. Louis high school cafeteria.) In recognition of her financial gifts, the most significant in the history of the hospital, the Hermann F. Spoehrer Children’s Research Tower was named in honor of her generosity in 1973.

In 1986 Harriet Spoehrer donated $1 million to the Washington University School of Medicine to establish the Spoehrer Professorship of Pediatrics. Four years earlier she had established the Hermann F. Spoehrer Scholarships in the School of Engineering in memory of her husband, a 1924 graduate of Washington University.

Harriet Spoehrer was a 1973 St. Louis Globe-Democrat Woman of Achievement for service to youth and community. She was honored by Washington University in 1984 with the Alumni Alliance Award. She died in 1992 at the age of 86.