Archive ID: 1981-147-09

South Chicago Community Hospital nurses and kitchen crew

Date Created: undated

Donor: John Scalzitti

Media Type: Scrapbook/Album/Diary

Language: English


South Chicago Community Hospital (now Trinity) was a small foundering institution, close to bankruptcy, when Clara Dorothy Schafer (1898-1972) came on as assistant superintendent in 1917. Neighborhood leaders decided after the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that the institution was worth saving. Schafer became superintendent in 1920 and a well-known and beloved figure. Known for her incredible devotion to the hospital, and doing everything from scrubbing floors to visiting patients, she turned the institution around and also made the School of Nursing a success. Dr. J. V. Kahn, who persuaded Schafer to come to South Chicago, wrote her a letter in which he said: “When you arrived you found a small hospital, infested with rats, mice and vermin. I thought you would quit the next day, but hoped you would stay. Sufficient help was lacking, and patients had to eat, so besides being superintendent you became exterminator, cook, maid, housekeeper, and what not. You toiled day and night in your effort to clean up the place, give it a good reputation, and live down the public’s ‘slaughter house’ opinion. In a short time you succeeded.” Southeast Chicago resident Lucille Koche recalled in an oral history how, after her baby Lois was born at the hospital in 1931, “Miss Schaffer was there and every Sunday morning she would come up to the room in her starched white gown and visit and ask if everything was okay.” Schafer pictured in the top photo of this scrapbook retired from the hospital in 1957. She was also the subject of a 1959 biographical booklet by Muriel Shields entitled,“The Light on the Hill.” A park in South Chicago is named after her.

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Community Life   Mill/Paid Labor   Other   Women’s Experiences   Other/Unknown   South Chicago   Other/Unknown   Scrapbook/Album/Diary   1981-147   Hospitals   Kitchens   Labor   Nurses   Nursing   South Chicago Community Hospital   Workers