The first seeds of the British Columbia Children’s Hospital were sown in 1922 when Edith Scott, stepmother of Othoa “Polly” Scott wrote to Mrs. V. S. MacLachlan, Superintendent of the BC Women’s Institutes. Mrs. Scott requested assistance for 10 year old Polly who suffered from tubercular spine following an accident on the school grounds. Early in 1923 Mrs. MacLachlan addressed the membership of Central Park WI in Vancouver issuing a plea for help not only for Polly, also for all crippled children in the province. Within the month, a fund was established, and a letter circulated to all Women’s Institutes in British Columbia, asking for donations. The Committee was named ‘The Women’s Institute Crippled Children Committee.’
Early in 1924, a gift of something over $400.00 was received from King George V and Queen Mary designated to be put toward a fund to establish an orthopaedic hospital for crippled children.
The Doors are Opened, Name Changed
The Crippled Children’s Hospital opened in 1928 in a large renovated house at 8264 Hudson Street in the community of Point Grey, in Vancouver. Working with a 16 bed capacity, it was soon hard at work addressing the problems of British Columbia’s youngest citizens.
In 1927 the name of the Vancouver facility was changed from the “Women’s Institute Hospital Association” to the “Women’s Institute Crippled Children’s Branch of the Red Cross.” In the 1930’s the name evolved to “New Children’s Hospital” and later “The British Columbia Children’s Hospital.”
The Women’s Institute members knew that providing a building was just the beginning, and changed the focus of their contributions: some branches provided funds to furnish wards; in 1934, Point Grey WI furnished a playroom. Annual donations were the order of the day, unless an individual branch had so many obligations in their own community that they were forced to miss a year.
The members not only donated money, they also sewed and knitted thousands of articles for the British Columbia Children’s Hospital. From pajamas, to dresses, to shirts and trousers, mitts, toques and sweaters as well as bedding, their winter months were filled with activities to aid the hospital and the work done there. Handcrafts donated included preemie toques, bonnets, booties, soft toys and finger puppets.
It is difficult to locate exact records of donations, however for the International Year of the Child 1979, there is a donation of over $21,281.00 made to BC Children’s Hospital, which included money for the new building under construction at the time. Additionally nearly $3,300.00 assisted with the furnishing and decorating of a new parents’ waiting room in the Day Care
Surgery Unit; and two Institutes held special raffles with the revenue ear-marked for the BC Children’s Hospital.
Women’s Institute Rose Garden
In conjunction with the 1982 Provincial Convention, the opening of the WI Rose Garden at the Children’s Hospital on the new site, sixty four roses, including twelve Adelaide Hoodless Roses were planted around a plaque which read: “For BC’s Children from the BC Women’s Institute.”
In 1990 at a “Heartfelt Thanks Tea and Tour” the organizations that had donated to the Hospital in the past two years were suitably appreciated and given a tour of the Hospital. BCWI members who attended this event were pleased to see a Women’s Institute plaque on the Hospital’s Donor Wall – these plaques represented donations of $10,000.00 or more.
A Legacy for Families and their Children
Since 1922, when the idea first emerged, to the present day, the British Columbia Women’s Institute members have held the British Columbia Children’s Hospital as one of their special projects. Some members have had their children or grandchildren ministered to in the hospital; some have had the youngsters of friends or neighbours cared for there; some have had no direct contact with the facility, but still are dedicated to its on-going well-being. We believe the British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver and the Queen Alexandra facility in Victoria could well be our greatest contribution to this beautiful province we live in. We will always continue to support these facilities – we urge all British Columbian’s to include these children’s services as some of their annual charitable donations.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the history of WI. Click here for more information about the BC Women’s Institute.
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