Phillips' Hospital Row Founded for Women and
by Wizard Marks. This article first appeared in The Alley in June,
What most South Minneapolis residents think of as Abbott Northwestern
Hospital is really owned by a health conglomerate called Allina,
Inc. Allina is the product of a series of mergers and spinoffs involving
the old Abbott and Northwestern Hospitals and a number of smaller
health care providers. In 1981 Abbott Northwestern celebrated the
100th anniversary of the founding of the first of these institutions.
Northwestern Hospital for Women and Children
Northwestern Hospital for Women and Children was the result of
charity work by Harriet G. Walker, wife of prominent businessman
Thomas B. Walker. In November, 1882, she invited her circle of friends
to listen to Dr. Mary Hood speak on the problems of the poor and
their lack of health care. Mary Hood told horror stories of children
suffering from malnutrition, diphtheria and tuberculosis. Dr. Mary
Whetstone chimed in to explain that women were dying from typhoid
and pneumonia. Walker was convinced that she and her women friends
could come up with the money to build a charity hospital for the
poorest women and children in the community.
One month later, the Northwestern Hospital for Women and Children
moved into a rented house on Three and a Half Avenue South. Within
a year, they had put a down payment on a bigger house and filed
articles of incorporation. By 1887 the hospital had built a permanent
home on the corner of Chicago and 27th Street. Doctors Hood and
Whetstone were the hospital's physicians.
As staff physicians, Hood and Whetstone depended on diet, cleanliness
and rest to cure their patients. According to Hood, "...we
depend largely upon nursing to sustain the vital forces...and so
help nature to gain the victory. In many severe cases our good nursing
has come to the rescue; frequent bathing and clean linen, good nourishing
food given regularly, and the quiet rest induced by the confidence
of good care are the secrets of our successful issues." In
many cases of tired, poor, half-starved women and children, this
was enough for them to recuperate from whatever illness they had.
Northwestern functioned well because it had a training program
for nurses during a time when nursing consisted of "the dressing
of wounds and sores, fomentation, friction, bathing, keeping of
temperature records, cookery for the sick, care of rooms, beds and
utensils and accurate observation and report to the attendant physician
of the condition of the patient and the effect of medicine and diet,"
according to its 1884 nursing school course catalog.
In addressing the 1915 graduating class of Northwestern's nursing
school, Harriet Walker said, "In the very early days...an elderly
and somewhat old-fashioned physician, even for those times, remarked...'You
are spoiling them...You are teaching them to use the thermometer,
and to know the nature and effects of medicine, and to understand
a patient's symptoms as well as a physician...All a nurse needs
to know is how to make a bed and fill a hot water bottle, and...wait
for the doctor. That is all I want my nurses to know.'"
Because it was organized as a charity hospital the "board
was careful to place top priority on those patients who had little
or no money to pay for their care," according to the Centennial
book produced by Abbott Northwestern in 1982.
Abbott's Hospital for Women
The story of Dr. Amos Abbott's Hospital for Women, opened in 1902,
was a different issue. His hospital, at 10 East 17th St. was designed
for paying customers. He served "the finest families in the
city as well as some of the poorest."
In 1903 Abbott employed Susan Holmes, the "Angel of Abbott"
to run the Abbott nursing school. She stayed until 1945.
In 1910, Abbott operated on Mrs. William Hood Dunwoody. She was
reportedly so grateful that she asked her husband, a Minneapolis
milling magnate, to build Abbott a proper hospital. The new hospital
opened in 1911 at 1818 First Avenue South. It had room for 12 nurses-in-training
even though Abbott believed nurses were there to "make the
patients comfortable and make them feel at home" and so never
permitted them to learn anything more than the rudiments of caring
for the sick. He believed that nurses should stand when he entered
the room and should address him formally.
When Dunwoody died, he left $100,000 to the trustees of Westminster
Presbyterian Church as an endowment to the hospital with the stipulation
that, after Abbott's death, the trustees would administer the hospital.
Until 1923, hospitals were run by senior medical staff assisted
by nursing school superintendents. However, the trustees of Westminster
Church were successful businessmen and insisted that Abbott Hospital
be run like a business. They hired Victor Anderson as the first
full time administrator.
Sister Kenny Institute
In the forties and fifties, polio, a virus which had all the horrible
communicability falsely attributed to AIDS today, was creating a
pandemic. The virus was airborne, so could be caught from anyone
carrying it who sneezed on someone, who served food to someone,
etc. Sister Elizabeth Kenny, an Australian Army nurse, had been
successful in her home country in lessening the crippling effects
of polio myelitis by packing patients in hot cloths for hours on
end and continuously exercising their failing arms and legs to teach
the body new pathways to take over the work of those nerves damaged
by the polio virus.
Kenny traveled all over the world proclaiming that paralyzed muscles
would be rehabilitated. However, it contradicted the accepted polio
treatment of the time and so was largely ignored by sexist doctors
who pooh-poohed her techniques, grounded in 31 years of experience
treating polio victims. She came to Minneapolis in the summer of
1940, where she met Dr. John Pohl, who was interested in trying
her techniques on one of his patients. He helped her take one Henry
Haverstock to Abbott for treatment and to demonstrate her techniques
to other doctors.
Her method was to establish new nerve paths for the body. "She
tried to get fixed in his (Haverstock's) mind some sort of organization
of motion. She tried to teach him what the movements were and what
ought to be happening...Without a doubt she knew more about the
mechanical function of the human body than anyone else in the world,"
Dr. Pohl said.
"The controversy over the Kenny rehabilitation method brewed
among doctors across the country. Many found her brash manner distasteful
and her system without basis, and they resisted her efforts to prove
that she knew what she was talking about," according to the
Centennial Book. Kenny turned to influential people and convinced
them to remodel the Lymanhurst School-Hospital at 1800 Chicago Avenue
as a rehabilitation center. On December 17, 1942, the Sister Kenny
Institute opened. A year later the Sister Kenny Foundation was formed
to raise money as trainloads of sick children from all over the
country began arriving.
In 1963 the Sister Kenny Foundation executive director and former
Minneapolis mayor, Marvin Kline was found guilty on counts of mail
fraud and larceny in connection with fund-raising for the Foundation.
This major crime on Kline's part kept the Kenny Institute, and consequently,
its patients from reaping the benefits of Sister Kenny's work.
By the mid-sixties, it was clear that Abbott and Northwestern were
growing together. In October of 1966, Minneapolis Medical Center,
a consolidation of Northwestern and three other hospitals along
Chicago Avenue, was incorporated to plan cost-effective ways to
share services. They were soon joined by other hospitals from around
Member institutions found that they had overlapping pediatric care
which they felt they could improve with the addition of a care facility
specifically for children. This led to the formation of Minneapolis
Children's Health Care. In January, 1973, MCHC opened on Chicago
and 26th Street and both Abbott and Northwestern shifted all their
pediatric cases to them.
In 1982 LifeSpan, a non- and for-profit corporate conglomerate,
became the corporate umbrella for Abbott Northwestern, Minneapolis
Children's Medical Center, Sister Kenny Institute, and the now defunct
Eitel Hospital under the rubric of "centralized fiscal management
and decentralized operation." LifeSpan is involved in geriatric
care and nursing homes (LifeSpring, Caroline Nursing Home), gynecology
(WomenCare), a consortium of 18 small town hospitals in rural Minnesota
(InterCare), medical equipement (TransHealth), fitness, chronic
pain, behavioral care, nursing education, medical research, home
health care, air ambulance and job placement for disabled workers.
From two small hospitals, the larger no bigger than a small apartment
building, Abbott and Northwestern have become LifeSpan then merged
with Health One. The result was Health Plan/Health Span. Health
Span then merged again with Medical which, at last count, had morphed
into Allina Health Systems, a major industry offering state of the
art birth-to-death health care, a budget of seventy million plus
annually and thousands of employees. What tends to be forgotten
is that womenHarriet Walker, Dr. Mary Hood, Dr. Mary Whetstone,
and Mrs. Dunwoody, were the necessary, though not sufficient instrument
in creating these health care institutions for women and children.