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 wanted to save sick children from the frightening and dangerous environments in adult hospitals at the time. She approached the Episcopal bishop Thomas Jaggar with her idea; he suggested that she might speak to other women in the diocesan churches. Mrs. Dayton enlisted Isabella Hopkins, who in turn recruited her sister Mary Emery. Mary Emery was recognized (at least by her wealthy husband) as the founder of the hospital.

Thomas Jaggar was the first bishop of Southern Ohio in 1775, a Diocese formed after an amicable split with the northern 48 counties of the state who retained the title of the Diocese of Ohio. His own 17-year-old daughter May was very sick at the time Mrs. Dayton brought up the idea of a children’s hospital. Apart from this personal connection, he saw the hospital as a way to build a sense of community in his new flock: it was the diocese that obtained a charter for “Episcopal Hospital” in November 1883. (The papers intentionally left the option open to expand the clientele to adult patients at the manager’s discretion.) 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.

Jaggar set about inviting Episcopal Churches all over Southern Ohio to see the institution as their resource and responsibility. “The foundation of this institution marks an era in the history of our Diocese. It is our first Diocesan Charitable Institution. The sum of $3,000 will endow a bed in perpetuity – and the sum of $250 will provide for the support of a bed for one year. I ask that every parish in the Diocese will become identified with this work, either by the endowment or support of a bed, or by some annual contribution, whether large or small.” He set aside the third Sunday in October: “Let it be known as Hospital Sunday, and the claims of the institutions be set forth by the ministers, and collection be taken.”

Douglass School History Club across the Street in 2018

The three Cincinnati women (backed by the Emery family fortune) rented a house in Walnut Hills and opened the Protestant Episcopal Hospital for Children in early 1884. The building still stands at the corner of Park and Yale, across the street from the present Frederick Douglass School. The hospital provided care without charge to the children’s families. It had a capacity of 16 patients. From the beginning it accepted children of all races, without regard to religious affiliation. The location within a few blocks of the Elm Street Colored Public School (later Frederick Douglass School) was convenient to the largely middle-class Black families in the neighborhood.

A story on the web site of the Church of the Advent, still operating in the same building on Kemper Lane, tells of one other gift to the hospital in those early days in the rented house on Park Avenue:

“Meeting opened with prayer by Mrs. Rochester. Minutes read & accepted. The boys worked on scrap-books, the girls on pillow-cases. Mrs. Rochester read Black Beauty to us and then we had our Valentines. Some of the girls brought cake and brownies, because they thought it was a party, but because it was Lent we sent them all to the Children’s Hospital and wrote a little letter to the children.”

Mary Rochester, appointed by Bishop Jaggar as the head of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Diocese of Southern Ohio and a member of the Church of the Advent, organized the upper- and upper-middle-class women of her parish and of the fledgling diocese to support the hospital. Some of the women spent time in the hospital, playing and conversing with the patients. A larger number made warm, convenient and respectable clothing as well as linens and pillow cases. The image of those women and girls sewing for the children of poor families, and of the Girl’s Friendly Society sending their cakes and brownies (perhaps reluctantly) to the Tiny Tims in the hospital, perfectly capture a certain gilded-age piety and noblesse oblige appropriate to the Diocese.

It is not clear whether Bishop Jaggar’s daughter May spent time in the hospital; she died in June 1884. The adoption of the institution by the rest of the Episcopalian parishes in the diocese took some time. Perhaps May’s untimely demise brought the community together: the third endowed bed in the hospital bore her name and over a thousand dollars came “from the children of the diocese” in 1886. Bishop Jaggar’s former parish at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia made a final payment for the $3000 endowment of her memorial bed on Easter 1887. By 1887 the records of Episcopalian Convention noted “Children have been sent from Hillsboro, Columbus, Middletown, Newark, Pique, Lebanon and Dresden; and there are in the Hospital to-day, patients from Delaware, Xenia, Lancaster, Portsmouth, Hamilton and Lockland.” Over the next decade Hospital Reports at the Convention noted that children from nearly every parish community in Southern Ohio found their way to the Episcopal Hospital. Annual financial reports included the amount set aside in each parish budget for the hospital. Episcopalians in Walnut Hills continued their interest in Children’s hospital. Peter Tinsley, rector of the Church of the Advent on Kemper Lane, headed the committee reporting on the institution in 1888 and 1889; his parish produced donations comparable to those of the big downtown Churches and Catherdral.

The little rented hospital lasted only a few years. Its replacement was born of another child’s tragic death. In February 1884, the Emery’s 15-year-old son Albert died in an accident at his New Hampshire school. The Emerys, like Jaggar, decided to memorialize their deceased teenage child. Mary’s husband Thomas, and his brother Josiah, determined to construct a fine new building next to Christ Hospital in Mt. Auburn. That building opened its doors in late 1887; the girls’ ward was named after May Jaggar, and the boys’ after Albert Emery. The hospital and the acre of land on which it stood were donated, free of rent or encumbrance.


Thanks to JoAnn Morse and Barbara Havens for conversations about their archival work at the Church of the Advent. The Church has important historical information on its web site and especially for this article the bibliography in Advent on the Edge: Peter Tinsley and Women’s Work – 1870-1940

Children’s Hospital periodically publishes its own history; other Cincinnati residents and institutions repeat the information. See, for example, or or, in print, Beatrice Katz Ph.D., Editor, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (Arcadia Publishing, 2008).

Most of the histories seem to follow the stories set forth in 1920, in the first number of the University of Cincinnati Medical Bulletin, which presents a history of the antecedents for the reorganized medical school, ostensibly at the centennial of the Medical College of Ohio. The story of the Children’s hospital appears on p 45.

The opening of the Mt. Auburn building, with emphasis on the memorials to My Jaggar and Albert Emery, is celebrated in the weekly Cincinnati Lancet-Clinic for November 26, 1887 (v 53. pp 657-660) .

The most detailed information on the early years of Children’s Hospital appears in the Journals of the Annual Conventions of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Conventions occurred in May, most of the content report on the previous year. Volumes 10-17 can be found at;view=1up;seq=7  Reports appear in v. 10 (1884) pp. 14-15, v. 11 (1885) pp. 27-29, v. 12 (1886) pp. 25-27, v. 13 (1887) p. 20, pp. 54-57, v. 14 (1888) pp. 84-87, v. 15 (1889) pp. 85-87, v. 16 (1890) pp. 78-79, v. 17 (1891) pp. 60-63.

May Jaggar bed first mentioned in conference for 1885, p. 26. Report for 1887 says the Memorial “lacks less than $200 of completion.” Trinity Philadelphia gift acknowledged by Thomas Emery at the opening speech in the Cincinnati Lancet-Clinic, Nov 26, 1877 pp 657-660 on p. 659. (Site above with a ink.)

1886 report stated children only from Cincinnati; 1887 report gave the list of other southern Ohio towns. Later reports note more communities sending patients to the hospital.