Children’s Hospital founders

In 1883, three Episcopalian women determined to open a new hospital in Cincinnati to care for sick children. The idea originated with a Mrs. Robert Dayton, herself left nameless in standard histories of the hospital. Mrs. Dayton approached the Episcopal bishop with her idea; he suggested that she might approach other women in the diocese’s churches. Mrs. Dayton enlisted Isabella Hopkins, who in turn recruited her sister Mary Emery. It seems that Mrs. Dayton wanted to save sick children from the frightening and dangerous environments in adult hospitals at the time. The three women (undoubtedly backed by the Emery family fortune) rented a house in Walnut Hills and opened the Protestant Episcopal Hospital in early 1884.
Pediatric medicine was hardly a medical specialty when the Protestant Episcopal Hospital opened in 1884. There were only a few Children’s hospitals, and a few pediatric clinics, in the country. Cincinnati had hired its first professor of pediatric health and disease in 1879; he opened a clinic the following year.
The hospital, at the corner of Park and Yale, provided care without charge to the patient families. From the beginning it accepted patients of all races. The location within a few blocks of the Walnut Hills Colored Public School (later Frederick Douglass School) was convenient to the largely middle class Black families in the neighborhood. Church women’s groups provided both necessities like furniture and food, and amenities like toys and clothing for the children. In the early years, the institution had two boards: a board of trustees (headed for decades by the presiding Episcopal bishop) and a board of lady managers who looked in on the day-to-day operations. Four doctors served the hospital as volunteers; a paid nurse and housemother were assisted by many volunteers who came to the Walnut Hills location.
The little rented hospital lasted only a few years. Mrs. Emery’s husband and brother-in-law took over the funding, and built a modern hospital building in Mt. Auburn, next to Christ Hospital. The original building still stands in Walnut Hills across the street from the current Frederick Douglass School.