Almost from the beginning of Blessing Hospital, organizations, churches and sometimes individuals had endowed rooms or wards. The hospital was considered a charity and needed endowments to sustain its work. The concept was to pay for a room so an employee, church member or family member could use it if needed without cost to the patient. These rooms also were decorated by the groups and could be used by anyone when not in use by members. By the 1890s, the cost of an endowed room was $250 per year or in perpetuity for a payment of $4,000. A bed in a ward could be endowed at $150 per year or by a gift of $2,000. Over the years it was necessary to modify the rules because of rising hospital expenditures.
A patient in an endowed room was entitled to room, board, laundry and regular nursing. Physician services and special nursing needs were not part of the endowment. The endowment contract specifically stated that, "No chronic or contagious cases can be admitted, nor can the Hospital be made a home for the aged and infirm. Only those patients who will probably be benefitted by hospital treatment are considered eligible."
The group or person endowing the room could send a "suitable patient" to the hospital at any time. The other caveat to the contract stated that the patient was entitled to services up to the net income of the fund for that year.
The churches used a variety of ways to raise money for their endowment fund such as a "hospital box" placed in the church for donations or "hospital Sundays" which earmarked the offering. The Nov. 20, 1895, Quincy Daily Journal suggested, "Every benevolent society in the city ought to have an endowed room at Blessing Hospital where their sick could be cared for better and cheaper than at home."
By 1911, the Quincy Nurses' Alumnae Association was interested in establishing a fund to endow a room for nurses. With only 15 original members and a goal of $4,000, the group worked to build the fund. The Oct. 2, 1913, Quincy Daily Herald said of the effort, "Most of the present fund has been the contribution of the nurses themselves, and so splendid, brave, and altruistic a movement deserves all the success and support that may come to it."
Unfortunately World War I interfered with the group's efforts. Fundraising resumed after the war, with the growing alumnae organization holding many events, including sponsoring plays and bazaars, along with several individual nurses continuing to contribute. By the 1920s the group settled on a goal of raising $7,500 to endow and name a private room in perpetuity. The money was mainly raised during a building campaign.
In October 1928, the Board of Trustees of Blessing Hospital adopted this resolution: "Resolved--That in consideration of the sum of $7,500, raised by Blessing Hospital graduate nurses and others, namely, Miss Irene Fee, Miss Anna Crooks, Miss Helen Greeman, Mrs. Mary Gillis, together with others who may subscribe in the future, then upon the payment of such sum, a room, number 112, in the hospital be set aside for the use of any eligible graduate nurse, requiring hospital care. This is to include a free room, with general nursing care. The nurse requesting said room must have the endorsement of the committee appointed by the Hospital Alumnae Association, for that purpose. Also, said committee and Supt. of Hospital reserve the right to govern the length of occupancy of nurses in said room. Signed V.G. Musselman."
In 1935, the board reaffirmed the resolution. The alumni pledged an additional $7,500 for a second room but were only able to raise $4,585 as the country was living through the Great Depression. Nurses were particularly hard hit as hospitals could not afford to pay them. Some nursing alumnae paid off their pledge by working in the hospital. By that time, the list of nurses who contributed to the fund grew to 104 from the classes of 1894 to 1933 and from the few nurses working in the hospital who were not alumni named in the 1928 resolution. The nurse requesting the room still had to have the endorsement of the endowment committee appointed by the Alumnae Association and with the hospital superintendent governing the length of stay.
The endowment was revisited in 1955, at which time only 55 of the 104 nurses remained in the area. The Alumnae Association determined that 85% of those nurses had hospital insurance. In 1957, the parties agreed on a stay of up to three months. It was for room and board, which changed to pay for the room in 1959 at a cost of up to $13 per day.
In 1962, one nurse used her card. By that time, 52 nurses were living in the area who had contributed to the fund. In 1968 the cost to the hospital was approximately $1,000 per year. Hospitals across the country were phasing out endowed rooms as private insurance became more prevalent and Medicare began providing health insurance. The Blessing Hospital administrator met with the endowment committee and told them the board planned to review all endowments when Medicare became available for those 65 and older. In 1972, at the last recorded endowment committee meeting, 74 nurses in the fund were living with 45 in the area and 20 of those not old enough for Medicare.
The last two nurses to contribute to the fund were two 1933 graduates, Raola Ogle Robertson and Esther Kurfman Bennet. Robertson's contribution was $120 in service, which allowed her free room and board for up to three months per year. After her death in March 2011, there were no living Blessing nurses eligible to stay for free in an endowed room. It is not known how many nurses stayed in an endowed room.
Arlis Dittmer is a retired medical librarian. During her years with Blessing Health System, she became interested in medical and nursing history-- both topics frequently overlooked in history.
"At The Orpheum." Quincy Daily Whig, June 23, 1916, p. 9.
"Blessing Hospital." Quincy Daily Whig, April 9, 1895, p. 8.
Board of Trustees. "Endowed Rooms Contract" (paper file) Drawer One, Alumni Association Files. Blessing Health System Archive, 1928.
"Endowed Room" (paper file). Drawer One, Alumni Association Files. Blessing Health System Archive.
"Local Pick-Ups." Quincy Daily Whig, Dec. 10, 1911, p. 14.
"Quincy Nurses' Alumni Elects." Quincy Daily Herald, Oct. 2, 1913, p. 8.
"The Opening Day." Quincy Daily Journal, Nov. 20, 1895, p. 4.