The Woman’s Aid Society

The Woman’s Aid Society of Passavant Memorial Hospital was formally established on January 30, 1897 when Rev. William A. Passavant Jr., son of the founder of Passavant Hospital, brought together nine civic-minded women to help maintain the work of the hospital. These women, with Mrs. John S. Runnells as their leader, became the founding members of what was to evolve into today’s Woman’s Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

In its first year of service, The Woman’s Aid Society raised $5,000 and took an active role in improving conditions at the now 65-bed hospital located at 149 West Superior Street. From the start, the founders decided that their emphasis would be on “care for the needy” and allocated $300 per year to the “free bed fund.”


Woman’s Aid Society Members at “Streets of Paris Bazaar” 1906

In February, 1900, The Woman’s Aid Society’s held it’s first major fundraiser — a production of musical theatre at the home of Potter Palmer. Tickets sold for $1.50 and allowed the Aid Society to pay for many improvements and repairs. By the end of the year, proceeds from the event created a dedicated entrance for accident cases, furnished two operating rooms with skylights, overhauled the entire plumbing and sewerage systems, cleaned and painted the entire interior of the building, tiled floors, and built a new sidewalk and morgue.

Another early fundraising effort was the wildly successful “Streets of Paris Bazaar” in 1906. Chicago’s citizens lined up for blocks to get into the Chicago Coliseum for the three days it was held. The effort raised almost $63,000 and was one of the most successful Chicago charity events of its time. These funds created an endowment for physicians’ training, cleared the hospital’s debt, bought more equipment and paid for the entire building to be wired for electricity. This success and other events such as an Arabian Nights ball and musical theatre productions cemented The Society’s reputation for creative and effective fundraising.

Passavant Memorial Hospital circa 1906