LOWELL CORPORATION HOSPITAL/
SAINT JOSEPH'S HOSPITAL
150 Years of Caring
[Editors Note: Originally the
Lowell Corporation Hospital was established in 1839.In
1930 the deed was transferred to the Archdiocese of Boston and it became
known as Saint Josephs Hospital.In
1989 Saint Josephs Hospital in Lowell, Massachusetts
celebrated 150 years of health care to the community.A History-Calendar, summarizing these fifteen decades with commentaries and
recollections, was published for the occasion. The following history of the hospital is
quoted from this publication.]
In 1839 Lowell was the most important
textile manufacturing city in the United States.The
birthplace of the industrial revolution in America, Lowell had become a city of 21,000
people, many of whom were mill girls recruited from surrounding areas to form
the labor force in the textile mills.
The high incidence of illness and injury
to mill operatives became a major public issue.It
became obvious that a facility for the health care of the mill operatives was necessary
for the continued well-being of the community, so the manufacturing corporations banded
together to establish and maintain a hospital for the convenience and comfort of
persons employed by them when sick for medical care, surgical treatment and to contribute
the funds necessary for that purpose.
Thus, on November 1, 1839, the LowellCorporation Hospital was established.Housed in the
mansion of the late Kirk Boott, which was later owned by Luther Lawrence, Mayor of Lowell,
the LowellCorporationHospital was the first industrial hospital in America, and for 27
years, the only hospital in Lowell.
It officially opened its doors on May 11,
1840, and admitted its first patient, Miss Nancy Judkins, a twenty-year-old weaver from
the Lawrence Manufacturing Company, who suffered from neuralgia.
Charges for care, three dollars a week for
women, four dollars for men, were paid by the operatives.If they were unable to pay the superintendent, then the mills for which they
worked would reimburse the Corporations.No
patient was turned away for lack of funds.
The hospital was managed by an appointed
medical superintendent who was in turn answerable to a board of trustees, which consisted
of representatives from each of the manufacturing companies.In addition to his managerial duties, the superintendent was also the
hospitals head surgeon.In order to
facilitate his work, he lived on the premises in quarters segregated from those of the
The first medical superintendent of the Lowell CorporationHospital was Dr. Gilman Kimball.For
twenty-seven years, Dr. Kimball performed his duties in such a way that he rose to
eminence as a surgeon in the United States.In
that time, he showed both compassion and skill to those who came under his care.As superintendent, he was required to perform a
variety of medical procedures, but most of his patients were young women in their
child-bearing years and he pioneered such gynecological operations as the ovariotomy and
the successful removal of the uterus.However,
records of the Hospital do not indicate any surgical cases until 1857.
Also in 1840, a 15-bed childrens
ward was opened, the first such facility in Massachusetts, according to Dr. John Lovett
Morse, Harvard Professor of Pediatrics.During the first twenty years, the prevailing
illness was typhoid fever, which was treated with relative success at LowellCorporationHospital.
In his report to Hospital Trustees
covering the first nine years of operation, Dr. Kimball recorded that more than half of
all admissions were diagnosed as typhoid fever; that there were only four months in the
nine-year period when no typhoid cases were admitted.Dr. Kimball writes, Typhoid fever is the most constant, the most
prevalent and the most important disease . From this cause more deaths occur than
from all other maladies coming under Hospital treatment.
The patients average stay in the
Hospital was 14 days.The beginnings of
private rooms are hinted at:The
wards are small, never more than five beds, seldom more than four.In extreme cases an entire ward is appropriated to
a single patient and in no instance is a patient allowed to witness a death.Indeed, everything which may be supposed to operate
injuriously on the mind or the senses is most studiously avoided.
An out-patient department was opened in
June 1877, not only for Corporation employees, but also for the poor of the city.On August 25, 1887, a new ward was opened to help
contain contagious diseases.This ward
remained in operation until 1918 when the city opened a contagious disease hospital.
A training school for nurses was
established in September 1887 with a course of instruction similar to that in the best
hospitals of the larger cities.
As the 19th century drew near
to a close, another noteworthy first occurred.In 1891, Sara A. Williams, M.D., became the first woman physician appointed
to the Staff of the LowellCorporationHospital.City
directories of the period show that she maintained an office on Central Street until, in
1895, she removed to Palmer.
An ear, nose and throat clinic opened in
1910.By 1911, medical and surgical clinics
went into operation and the laboratory was completed.Two years later the hospital bought its first X-ray machine, and in 1919 a
pathology department was founded.A first-aid
room for outpatient use and a prenatal clinic were instituted in 1921, and in 1925 saw the
opening of an orthopedic clinic and brought the first five radium needle implants to the
hospital for treatment.
By then, however, the mills had fallen on
bad times.They had been hard-pressed by the
Civil War, and in the following decades many had sought cheaper labor ad more efficient
geographical areas for manufacturing outside of New England.Now facing the depression, industry declined, boarding houses were closed,
mills shut down.The CorporationHospital
could no longer pay its way.
Saint Josephs Hospital
Beginning in 1927 and continuing through
1930, the Corporation made several unsuccessful attempts to sell the hospital to the
Franco-American Oblates, who had been petitioning the Archdiocese of Boston for a hospital
for their community.The Cardinal continually
refused to sanction the acquisition of the hospital because its purchase price of $85,000
(the hospitals deficit) was too high.
Undaunted, Father Louis Bachand, Pastor of
ST. Josephs Parish, was determined to acquire the hospital. With Joseph Legare
acting as a liaison between the Oblates and the Corporation and Arthur Eno handling the
legal aspects, ten days of negotiations ensued.As
a result, on November 1, 1930, the deed to the LowellCorporationHospital was transferred
to the Archdiocese of Boston and placed under the direction of the Oblates with the Grey
Nuns of the Cross of Ottawa acting as management.In
consideration of one dollar, it was given as a general hospital for the city of Lowell
with the stipulation that it continue its work unchanged.
As the LowellCorporationHospital, its
days had come to an end, but its accomplishments had not gone unnoticed.During its 99-year history, it had served over
2,000 patients and met the health needs of a rapidly growing community.Under its new name, Saint Josephs Hospital,
its broader role as a Catholic community hospital had just begun.
The first Superior of Saint Josephs
Hospital was Sr. St. Alphonse Rodriguez, who had been Superior of Notre Dame Hospital in Hawkesbury,
Ontario.On November 12, 1930, accompanied by
Sr. Jerome-Emilien and Sr. St. Simonne, Sr. Alphonse left the Mother House in Ottawa on a train, arrived in Lowell at , and received a warm reception at St. Josephs
Convent on Moody Street.
At the following morning, Sr.
Alphonse and Fr. Bachand visited the hospital where they were greeted coldly by the
superintendent of nurses, who did little to make them feel welcome.They were appalled at the disorder and neglect that
had befallen the hospital since the mid 1920s, when the corporations were no longer
able to support it.
Another cool reception was given by the
medical superintendent of the hospital, until Sr. Alphonse assured him they had no
intention of removing him from his position, but would like him to remain and assist them
in the transition.She thus obtained his
cooperation and loyalty.
On November 15th, St. Alphonse
met with all the graduate nurses and students to assure them that they were to be retained
in their positions.The superintendent of
nurses had recommended that they leave because the Sisters did not want them; and they
were please to know this was not the case.They
were also assured by Sr. Alphonse that Saint Josephs was an institution
devoted to relieve the suffering of the humanity regardless of nationality or creed.
Having secured the cooperation of the
hospital superintendent and nursing staff, Sr. Alphonse and her staff set about the
arduous work of cleaning, painting, and revitalizing the deteriorated hospital.
Under Sister Alphonses prudent
direction, economies were practiced diligently.Note
was taken of food left unconsumed as well as consumed by the patients, the better to plan
menus.Electric lights of unneeded strength
were replaced with smaller bulbs to conserve energy expense.Free bricks from a torn-down mill building were used to build a boiler
plant.Cleaning, painting, and a general
face-lifting of the facility were done during the first weeks.Thanks to the untiring devotion of the Sisters,
marvels were accomplished in a short time.
The Hospital was blessed by William
Cardinal OConnell and renamed Saint Josephs Hospital at a ceremony on
Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1930.Community
leaders and Church members were enthusiastic and generous in their response to fund
raising efforts on behalf of the new Saint Josephs Hospital.
In a report titled:Sincerity-Simplicity-Service covering
the Hospitals first full year of operation, the following statistics were recorded:
Also significant in first-year statistics,
and consistent with Christian charity, were:
6,743meals given to the poor 10,339out-patient treatments at hospital
expense 526 operations
performed at no expense to the patients
The report placed a dollar value of over
$57,000 as the cost of providing these charities!
Other first year accomplishments included a myriad of activities involving
renovating and repairing the building exterior, as well as constructing an addition to the
main building and beautifying the grounds.
[Editors Note:Also in 1989, the hospital undertook a major
building and renovation program which included a state-of-the art Intensive/Cardiac Care
Unit, the most modern in the area.Upon
completion this new unit was named after Sr. Yvette Thibaudeau, S.C.O.In 1942 Sr. Thibaudeau graduated from the
hospitals School of Nursing.She then
entered the order of the Grey Nuns of the Cross (Sisters of Charity of Ottawa), continued
her studies and served as a nursing supervisor in Ottawa before returning to Saint
Josephs Hospital in 1954 as assistant administrator.She retired as administrator, the post she had held since 1964, in 1989 but
continued her involvement by overseeing the new building project.
In 1992, Saint Josephs Hospital and St.
JohnsHospital, both in Lowell merged to become Saints Memorial Medical Center.For more information go to: