Name and location of repository
Level of description
Woman's Hospital in the State of New York
- 1988 (Creation)
- 1854-1966 (bulk 1855-1952) (Creation)
34 boxes, 9 volumes (122 inches)
Name of creator
The Woman’s Hospital Association was organized February 10, 1855, with the intent of establishing the Woman’s Hospital, which would be a charity institution exclusively for the treatment of “diseases peculiar to women.” The hospital would also be a teaching facility where physicians and surgeons could observe and learn the new techniques of Drs. J. Marion Sims and Thomas Addis Emmet, both gynecological surgeons.
The Woman’s Hospital Association was the result of a meeting of thirty-five influential New York City women gathered together by Dr. Sims. At this meeting, Sims spoke about New York’s need for a hospital to treat gynecological diseases. The women supported the idea and organized the Association, whose membership was regulated by a fixed schedule of contributions. The Hospital was established in May of 1855 and incorporated in New York State later that year. Its managers were chosen by a majority of the Association members at its annual meeting. The Association was led by six women (three Directresses, a Secretary, a Treasurer, an Assistant Treasurer), and a Board of Managers, often referred to as the ‘Board of Lady Managers,’ comprised of 35 women. An Executive Committee of seven women was appointed annually by the Board of Managers to manage the day to day affairs of the institution.
In 1857 the Hospital was re-incorporated by the New York State Legislature as the 'Woman's Hospital in the State of New York,' and re-organized under an all-male Board of Governors. The twenty-seven Governors were responsible for the overall concerns of the Hospital, including filling vacancies of non-female staff, enacting the By-Laws and organizing the Medical Department.
The former Board of Managers became the Board of Supervisors, commonly referred to as the ‘Board of Lady Supervisors,’ charged with managing the operations of the Hospital, including the appointment of nurses and other female attendants. Out of this group, ten women formed a ‘Board of Lady Managers,’ responsible for handling the day-to-day business of the Hospital.
In 1887 the Board of Governors, unable to fill vacant positions on their Board, decided to invite four women from the Board of Lady Supervisors to fill them. They found this integration “to be most acceptable in its results” and they decided to petition the State Legislature to amend the Acts of Incorporation to reorganize the Board of Governors to consist of fourteen men and thirteen women. The amendment passed on April 18, 1888. Included in these changes: the vice-president of the Board of Governors would be a woman and the Board of Lady Supervisors was discontinued. Additionally, an Executive Committee, consisting of ten Governors “who shall have the general charge, control and superintendence of the hospital…subject to…the Board of Governors,” was created. The Executive Committee was responsible for creating an “Assistant Board, composed of twenty-five ladies…”, with the vice-president of the Board of Governors as its Chairman. This board was charged with handling the daily business of the Hospital. For several years the names ‘Associate Board” and “Assistant Board” were used interchangeably.
The Association chose a four-story brownstone house at 83 Madison Avenue (at 29th Street) as the Hospital’s first facility. According to the first annual report, it held forty beds and welcomed its first patient on May 4, 1855. The location was close to the residence of Dr. Sims who was in poor health and could not travel long distances to and from his work. In 1858, via the petitioning of Dr. Sims, the City of New York offered the block of land between 49th and 50th Streets and Lexington and 4th (subsequently Park) Avenues, to the Governors to become the site of a new hospital campus. This site operated from 1867 until 1902. The building had room for seventy-five patients. A second building, added in 1877, doubling the number of beds. In 1902 this facility was closed and sold, and all services, except the out-patient clinic, were suspended until 1906, when a new building, between West 109th and 110th Streets and Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, opened.
Over the years, the Board recognized the need to develop additional services. A post-graduate school of nursing admitted its first class in 1888. The establishment of a hospital pharmacy in 1881, a maternity ward in 1910, and a social services department in 1912 are examples of the additional services made available at Woman’s Hospital.
On January 1, 1953, Woman’s Hospital merged with St. Luke’s Hospital. Being but a few blocks away from each other, the Board of Trustees of both Hospitals came to see that their histories and ideals were parallel, and that it would be beneficial to each to consolidate their resources, which would also strengthen medical services offered to the broader Morningside Heights community. In merging, the Woman's Hospital became the Woman's Hospital Division of St. Luke's Hospital. The Board added ‘Center” to the Hospital’s name in the mid-1960s to acknowledge distinctions between the different Hospitals. The Woman’s Hospital Board of Governors merged with the corresponding board at St. Luke’s, but the Ladies Associate Board remained independent and continued to meet for some years. The Woman’s Hospital Division continued to function on its 109th Street site until 1965, when it moved into new quarters on the West 114th Street campus.
In 1979, St. Luke’s Hospital Center merged with the Roosevelt Hospital forming St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. In 1997, the Hospital Center joined with Beth Israel Medical Center under the Continuum Health Partners, LLC banner. In 2013, Continuum merged with Mount Sinai Medical Center forming the Mount Sinai Heath System. The St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center is now separately called Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai West. The Woman’s Hospital Division continued as such until mid-2019, when all the pre-merger names of St. Luke’s Hospital pavilions were removed or changed.
Content and structure elements
Scope and content
The documents comprising the records of the Woman’s Hospital in the State of New York include annual reports, committee reports, meeting minutes, correspondence, photographs, reprints and written works prepared by the medical staff, 19th century patient casebooks, the manuscript of the first gynecological text book in the U.S., notebooks recording expectant fathers’ thoughts, original gynecological illustrations for text books, and medical instruments. Although most of the material deals with the administrative aspects of the hospital, documentation of the medical staffs’ accomplishments is also provided.
Bound volumes of annual reports, which include reports from the Woman’s Hospital Association, Board of Governors, Board of Supervisors and the Medical Department, form the most complete series among these records, though the collection lacks the first 22 volumes of reports, and only starts at Volume 23, 1877-1878. The reports provide a description of the hospital’s organizational structure and its constitution and by-laws. Additionally, each offers an overview of the major events and accomplishments for that year: statistical data, such as the number of patients admitted and treated, financial information concerning the budget, and donations and their donors. Several of the reports include the text of speeches given at the annual combined meetings of the Boards and biographical sketches of hospital physicians. (Note: Earlier copies of Woman’s Hospital annual reports are found at the New York Historical Society.)
Also included in the annual reports are monthly and quarterly reports submitted to the Board of Governors by the Boards and their committees. Their dates and numbers imply that several are missing. These reports include statistical information, e.g., number of patients being treated, financial data, and descriptions of the hospital’s physical condition. Although incomplete, the medical reports provide statistical and narrative reports of the pathologist and other physicians.
Minutes of meetings constitute a significant portion of this collection. They record the proceedings of the various Boards and their respective committees. The discussions reveal the hierarchy in the Woman’s Hospital organizational structure. There are gaps in the reports, however.
Some correspondence addressed to the Board of Governors has been filed with the Board’s records. Several of the letters refer to appointments of physicians and other personnel, while the remainder are general in nature.
The casebooks span dates between 1855 and 1871 and include patient information from J. Marion Sims, MD and Thomas Addis Emmet, MD. The text includes original, hand drawn pencil sketches of some of the cases, sometimes in color. The original casebooks are fragile and have been digitally scanned for researcher use.
The records of the Woman’s Hospital in the State of New York shed light on the history of the Hospital from an organizational and medical perspective. The evolution of the hospital is highlighted by the wide time span covered by the materials. References to other hospitals and certain epidemics supply information about general health conditions in New York City during this time period.
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use elements
Conditions governing access
This material is available for use. Please contact the Archives (MSArchives@mssm.edu) for more information.
Some materials in this collection are fragile. Handling is at the discretion of the archivist.
Conditions governing reproduction
Languages of the material
Scripts of the material
Language and script notes
Generated finding aid
Acquisition and appraisal elements
It is unknown exactly when these materials came into the possession of Bolling Memorial Library at St. Luke’s Hospital Center. The materials were transferred to the Arthur H. Aufses, Jr., MD Archives in June 2016, after the 2013 merger of the Continuum Health Partners, Inc. (consisting of St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Beth Israel Medical Center, and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary) and The Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Immediate source of acquisition
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information
Related materials elements
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related archival materials
The New York Historical Society has copies of early annual reports that are not included in this collection, though not a complete run, as well as other miscellaneous Woman’s Hospital publications.
The New York Academy of Medicine also has various publications about and from Woman’s Hospital.
Description control element
Rules or conventions
Processed by Marlene R. Horowitz, MLS, in June 1981. Collection guide by Nancy Panella, Ph.D., in Fall 2015. Collection guide revised and expanded by Michala Biondi, MA, in July 2019, April 2020, and April 2021.
Subject access points
Name access points
Genre access points
- Informational works » Serial publications » Annual reports
- Informational works » Records (documents) » Account books
- Informational works » Records (documents) » Medical records
- Informational works » Records (documents) » Minutes (Records)
- Informational works » Serial publications » Newsletters
- Ephemera » Tracts (Ephemera)
- Visual works » Photographs