Last week, August 18th marked the centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which declared, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
In our blog posts last week, we shared about women and their roles at Rush Medical College and its teaching hospital, Presbyterian Hospital, in 1920. We also learned about nursing students at Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing, who would have been all women in 1920.
This week, we’ll focus on the roles of women in 1920 at another important Rush predecessor, St. Luke’s Hospital. St. Luke’s Hospital was founded in 1864, and for most of its history was located in what is now considered Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. St. Luke’s Hospital, like Presbyterian on the West Side, developed its own nursing school, St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing, in 1885.
CAPTION: For some perspective on patient care in St. Luke’s Hospital in 1920, here are patient statistics by condition or service broken down by male and female from the 1920 Annual Report.*
In a 1942 retrospective in St. Luke’s News**, the newsletter of St. Luke’s Hospital, employees of over twenty years with the hospital were celebrated, including employees who would have been with the hospital in 1920.
This newsletter feature included one woman of color, Maud Grady, of the housekeeping department.
Later that same year, a “Who’s Who” feature in St. Luke’s News spotlighted Maud Grady, who was first employed by St. Luke’s Hospital in 1920. This piece is particularly special as Maud Grady, certainly not the only woman of color employed by the hospital in all those years, is one of the only women of color we have information about from that era, thanks to his feature.
It can be a challenge to try to tell the stories of underdocumented groups of people in the past whose voices were unheard and whose stories were dismissed. Although the hospital did have Black employees in 1920, they were often employed in support positions, which were not as well documented as the medical or nursing staff. Unfortunately, most of their names and accomplishments have been lost over the past 100 years.
Thankfully, however, out of these historic Black employees of St. Luke’s Hospital, comes the story of Maud Grady.
From St. Luke’s News, 1942:
Granddaughter of slaves, daughter of an African Methodist Minister, born in Houston, Texas, and working in St. Luke's Housekeeping Department for 22 years. Who is she? Mrs. Maud E. Grady!
Mrs. Grady didn't last long at her scrubbing job at St. Luke's for which she was hired back in 1920. She was soon promoted to maid's work. And that didn't last long either. Her next promotion was to cleaning Saranac [Apartment Building] and the offices. There was a period after the War when it was almost impossible to get white help in the housekeeping department. Colored workers were hired to the number of 75, and Mrs. Grady was put in charge of them. Today they number 35, and Mrs. Grady still supervises their work and hires them.
She tries to select workers who are dependable and who have dependents. She is a good friend to her workers, and they acknowledge her as a leader. When sickness or death visits them or their families, Mrs. Grady administers to them. She attends their funerals and sees that collections are taken for flowers.
Mrs. Grady is a widow and has one daughter who is married, but she has been foster-mother to more than one infant now grown to manhood or womanhood. She has a reputation for being a good cook. Her personal preferences in foods are vegetables, particularly mustard greens, — and corn bread!
Because of her pleasant personality and sterling character she has made and maintains a host of friends in the 22 years she has been at St. Luke's.
We hope you enjoyed this piece from St. Luke's News.
Behind Maud Grady are countless men and women of color who kept the hospitals running, worked hard, and lived full lives. We treasure discovering their forgotten stories and hope to find more as we continue our searches through the Rush Archives collections.
Want to learn more about the history of Rush or the Rush Archives collections? Explore the Rush Archives website, or contact the archivist, Nathalie Wheaton, MSLS.
All documents and photographs belong to the records collections of Rush University Medical Center Archives, Chicago, Ill. Contact the archivist for permissions and full citations.
*From the St. Luke's Hospital Annual Report, 1920: https://archive.org/details/annualreport186558stlu/page/n25/mode/2up
**From St. Luke's News, 1942: https://archive.org/details/stlukesnews03stlu
Presbyterian and St. Luke's Hospital merged in 1956. Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital merged with the newly reorganized Rush Medical College in 1969, to become Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center (RPSLMC). RPSLMC was renamed Rush University Medical Center in 2003, to better reflect its status as a leading academic research center.
MORE in this blog series:
Centennial of 19th Amendment: Women and Rush Medical College, 1920 (Part 1) [August 13, 2020]
Centennial of 19th Amendment: Women and Presbyterian Hospital, 1920 (Part 2) [August 18, 2020]
Centennial of 19th Amendment: Women and St. Luke’s Hospital, 1920 (Part 3) [August 25, 2020]
Centennial of 19th Amendment: Women and St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing, 1920 (Part 4) [August 27, 2020]
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