Founders and Leaders of St. Louis Children’s Hospital
|Apolline Alexander Blair|
Apolline Alexander Blair, widow of Civil War general and later Senator Francis P. Blair, Jr., was the organizer and first president of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Board of Managers. In the winter of 1878, Blair gathered a group of 20 prominent women to discuss the plight of poor, sick children. Having lost two children to infectious illness, Blair was especially aware of the need for hospital care for children. Though there were established hospitals to care for the poor, children were excluded because the hospitals lacked the staff and facilities to care for them. Blair proposed to her friends that they begin a fund drive to establish a children’s hospital to provide medical and nursing care for needy children. They organized themselves into a Board of Managers and raised $4,500 to purchase a building at 2834 Franklin Avenue. The certificate of incorporation that was filed on May 6, 1879 named only women: Apolline Blair, Mary W. McKittrick, Caroline B. Treat, Margaret H. DeWolf, Rebecca Webb, Cherrell W. Parker, Virginia E. Stevenson, and M. Louise Norris. The hospital opened on October 29, 1879. Blair led the Board of Managers until 1883. She continued to serve on the Board, often as an officer, until her death in 1908 at the age of 80.
|Mary Webber McKittrick|
Blair was succeeded as president of the Board of Managers by Mary Webber McKittrick, who served until 1907. During her tenure the managers raised money to build a new, larger hospital, which opened in 1884 at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Adams Street. The new 60-bed facility included a ward for infectious cases and a dispensary for treating outpatients. In the late 1880s, the Board of Managers established an educational committee, concerned about caring for the educational as well as the medical needs of children. A Pure Milk Station was opened in 1904, distributing safe milk to patients and neighborhood children before pasteurization and refrigeration made safe milk readily available. The hospital introduced more scientific methods and equipment, acquiring incubators, an x-ray apparatus, a sterilizer, and hot and cold distillers. A school for the training of nurses in the diseases of infants and children was established in 1907 to better prepare and train the hospital’s staff. Mary Webber McKittrick died at the age of 70 in May 1909. Her daughter, Mary McKittrick Markham, would go on to become the hospital’s 4th Board of Managers president.
|Grace Richards Jones|
Grace Richards Jones was the 3rd president of the Board of Managers, serving from 1907 until 1925. Under her leadership, the hospital expanded, affiliating with the Martha Parsons Free Hospital for Children, opening a “country department” for convalescent patients, and establishing a medical social service department. Most importantly, Jones forged an affiliation between the St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the Washington University School of Medicine, thus putting the hospital on the most modern, scientific basis. Becoming a teaching hospital within a major medical center combined the best available patient care with support for research into children’s diseases. A 125-bed, modern hospital was built on a lot near the medical school and Barnes Hospital, opening in 1915. An occupational therapy department was established in 1919, furthering the goal of treating the whole child. Jones resigned as president of the Board of Managers in 1925, though she remained active in the hospital’s affairs until shortly before her death in 1950 at the age of 90.
|Mary McKittrick Markham|
Mary McKittrick Markham, daughter of Mary Webber McKittrick, served as the 4th president of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Board of Managers from 1925 to 1945. Alice Langenberg, who originally joined the Board of Managers in 1907, served as the 5th and final female president from 1945 until 1950. Though the power of the women managers diminished after the hospital’s affiliation with Washington University, the Board continued to guide the hospital’s mission and worked enthusiastically to further the institution’s goals. In the early 1930s a Child Guidance Clinic and Metabolism Ward were established.
Through the difficult years of the Depression the Board of Managers successfully continued fundraising efforts, establishing a Special Nursing Fund in 1936 to provide special nursing care for critically ill ward patients whose parents were financially unable to pay for such care. A Premature Baby Center, the first of its kind in Missouri, was opened in 1949.
In 1950 the Board of Managers was replaced with a Board of Trustees, consisting of both men and women, that took over the hospital’s administration. The St. Louis Children’s Hospital Auxiliary was founded at that time as a spin-off of the Board of Managers. Founded by Cora Lee King Rose, the Auxiliary provided fund-raising and volunteer support for the hospital. The Auxiliary has contributed money raised through both the hospital’s coffee and gift shops and special events. Volunteers have contributed tens of thousands of work-hours yearly, assisting in many medical and administrative departments.
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