Boston Lying-In Hospital.

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Boston Lying-in Hospital (BLI) was the earliest incarnation of what is known today as the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In 1832, the Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society and the Massachusetts Humane Society each contributed $5000 towards the establishment of a hospital “for the care and relief of poor and deserving women.” Dr. Walter Channing and Dr. Enoch Hale are credited as the founders and first attending physicians of the Boston Lying-in Hospital.

Boston Lying-in Hospital provided maternity care for indigent women at 718 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts and was the first institution of its kind in New England. By 1853, BLI had outgrown its building and moved to Springfield and Worcester Streets. At this time the hospital was charging patients for board, but was not generating enough income to meet expenses. Consequently, the hospital was closed in 1856 and the property sold in 1857. By careful investment of the remaining funds after payment of debts, trustees were able to reopen the hospital in 1873 at 24 McLean Street. In 1923, BLI relocated once more to 221 Longwood Avenue across the street from the Harvard Medical School quadrangle. In 1932, Richardson House was added to provide more private rooms for new mothers.

The Boston Lying-in Hospital’s obstetrics training program and the Free Hospital for Women’s gynecology training program, informally associated since 1922, were formally united in 1951. In 1966, the Boston Lying-in Hospital merged with the Free Hospital for Women in cooperation with Harvard Medical School, to form the Boston Hospital for Women (BHW). In 1975, BHW merged with the Peter Bent Brigham and the Robert B. Brigham Hospitals forming the Affiliated Hospitals Center. In 1980, at the time of the opening of a new state-of-the-art facility, the Affiliated Hospitals Center became known as the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School.

Many advances in the practice of obstetrics in the United States were pioneered by staff at the Boston Lying-in Hospital, including the use of anesthesia for labor pain, using rubber gloves and washing hands to prevent infection, outpatient services, heated bassinets for premature infants, and a nurse training school. The hospital also established pre-natal care clinics, standards for cesarean section procedures, cardiac care for pregnant women, and preventative medicine for newborns. The first RH factor in blood was also identified at BLI. These advances produced a steady, and often dramatic, drop in both maternal and fetal mortality rates over the course of its 134 years of independent operation.

From the guide to the Records, 1855–1983 (Bulk 1921–1966)., (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Class Book, 1863-1924. Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn Free Hospital for Women. Records, 1879-1969. Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library
creatorOf Records, 1855–1983 (Bulk 1921–1966). Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
referencedIn Harvard Medical School Affiliated Hospitals. Images, 1800-1980. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Coolidge and Shattuck corporateBody
associatedWith Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch and Abbott corporateBody
associatedWith Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine. corporateBody
associatedWith Free Hospital for Women. corporateBody
associatedWith Harvard College (1780- ). Class of 1864. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country

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