The Woman’s Board begins long-standing fundraising initiatives

In 1940, the Woman’s Aid Society’s name changed to The Woman’s Board. During this decade The Woman’s Board established two current and long-standing fundraising initiatives; in 1946, opening the Hospital’s first gift shop, which we continue to manage as the Pulse Gift Shop, and organizing and planning the first Passavant Cotillion in 1949. Both efforts were huge successes; the gift shop netted $10,000 in its first year and the Cotillion raised nearly $50,000 for free care of patients unable to pay. In a front page article on December 24th, the Chicago Daily Tribune wrote of the Cotillion: “The event set a new pattern in Chicago, both in raising money for charity…and in social custom.”

In the years after World War II, hospital fundraising became increasingly important as costs for new medical and surgical technologies, equipment and procedures rose dramatically. The Woman’s Board was searching for a new means of fundraising that could become a distinctive annual benefit. A debutante cotillion was suggested by Mrs. Homer P. Hargrave as a tradition that could be established locally. Knowing that many people were unable to pay for their hospital care, the members of the Woman’s Board voted in January, 1949 in favor of the idea to host a Cotillion, and the Passavant Cotillion and Christmas Ball was born with Mrs. Hargrave serving as the first chairwoman. By May, the families of 37 young women had agreed to take part in what in what has continued to be a socially prestigious event and a vital part of our fundraising efforts. By 1961, in it’s 14th year, the Cotillion topped the $1 million mark in funds raised. The Cotillion has since raised many millions of dollars more to enhance the quality of patient care, research, community service and education.

In addition to fundraising, The Woman’s Board worked hands-on in the hospital during this period, staffing and serving doctors, visitors and staff in in the newly founded gift shop and coffee shop and and expanding their duties by delivering meals and mail. Confirming the Board’s reputation of not only providing financial support but adding to the hospital’s amenities and comfort, the Chicago Tribune described the gift shop as a place where “one can get a quick lunch (best sodas in town), a quick present and a quick pickup for the spirits, for the gay little spot seems to make long hours of enforced waiting for news lose their ominousness.”

In 1950 The Woman’s Board organized the hospital’s first formal volunteer program, recruiting and training the hospital’s volunteers.  Today, because of this training and the growth of the hospital’s own Volunteer Services Department, most of our many efforts are now centered on committee work focusing on raising and disbursing funds which support the mission of Northwestern Medical and our legacy of compassionate care.