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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

WOMAN'S GENERAL HOSPITAL - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

WOMAN'S GENERAL HOSPITAL (1878-1984, inc. 1894) founded as the Women's & Children's Free Medical & Surgical Dispensary, was the only hospital in Cleveland entirely founded by women. Although initially devoted to care of women and children, it later expanded to provide in-patient care in medicine, surgery, and pediatrics for women and men. In the 1970s it became widely known for its women's alcoholism rehabilitation unit. Woman's General was founded by 2 physicians, KATE PARSONS† and MYRA K. MERRICK†, the first woman to practice medicine in Cleveland. The initial purpose was to give women graduating in medicine an opportunity to obtain clinical experience, an opportunity denied by other city dispensaries and hospitals (see HOSPITALS & HEALTH PLANNING). In its first 4 years, the dispensary operated from a corner of the Cleveland Homeopathic Medical College on Prospect Ave. (see HOMEOPATHY). A 2-story brick building was purchased in 1882. The dispensary's patients consisted of poor women or women who preferred a female physician. A bed in Huron Rd. Hospital (see MERIDIA HURON HOSPITAL) was used for the seriously ill. For many years the hospital was jointly run by a board of trustees composed of medical women and a male board of fiscal trustees. Dr. SARAH MARCUS† provided notable leadership during the mid-20th century.

In 1912, under the impetus of president MARTHA A. CANFIELD†, a resolution was adopted to turn the dispensary into a hospital for women and children. This decision was largely in response to a new regulation that allowed only hospital-trained physicians to practice medicine. Opened on Cedar Ave. in 1913, Woman's Hospital moved in 1915 into a rented building on E. 107th and increased its beds from 12 to 19. A new building was erected on E. 101st at what would later be Chester in 1918. By 1929 Woman's Hospital offered the third-largest maternity service in Cleveland. That same year, a new board was established that consisted of both women and men, professional and lay. Large-scale expansion began in 1949, when ground was broken for a new 5-floor facility; two additional stories were completed in 1959. A 20-year expansion program, announced in 1964, never fully materialized because of changing economics. In 1970 the name was changed to Woman's General Hospital. By 1974 the hospital had an active medical staff of 52 and departments of surgery, medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, radiology, anesthesiology, and pathology. A year later a new wing opened for women alcoholics, perhaps the first of its kind in the U.S. The hospital merged with POLYCLINIC HOSPITAL in 1978. In the early 1980s, with increasing competition from newer facilities, the hospital suffered declining occupancy and closed.

Woman's General Hospital Records, Dittrick Museum of Medical, History.

Last Modified: 30 Jul 1999 04:35:22 PM

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