Lying-in Hospital and Dispensary for Diseases peculiar to Women

Lying-in Hospital and Dispensary for Diseases peculiar to Women This pamphlet concerns a hospital in Sheffield that would be for Sheffield a pioneer establishment. On the 11th of December 1863 a public meeting was held at the Cutlers’ Hall that was attended by the leading citizens of Sheffield.
The following resolution was unanimously passed that- “in the opinion of this Meeting it is desirable to establish in this town a Lying-in Hospital and Dispensary for Diseases peculiar to Women”.

Perhaps the august body present were influenced by the fact that other cities of comparable size, such as Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, already had well-established lying-in hospitals.

Two committees were formed – one of Ladies and one of Gentlemen – to promote the objects of the Institution. 26 persons had already promised donations and another 43 persons had promised to subscribe. Total money promised so far was £278.3s.6d. This was a good start and would go a long way to reaching the target of between £400 and £500.

The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent Newspaper carried an article about this proposed hospital on Saturday 12th December 1863. A Doctor Aveling reminded people that this was the fourth attempt to establish such a hospital. It would have 4 objectives –
1. To attend women at their homes when in labour and to train midwives for that purpose.
2. To receive as outpatients women suffering from diseases peculiar to their sex.
3. To maintain a few beds for in-patients who cannot be satisfactorily treated at home.
4. To promote the advancement of medical science with reference to midwifery and the diseases incident in women.

The idea was that midwives visiting women in the home would prevent the spread of such diseases as puerperal fever and leave the hospital beds for those who may have difficult labours.
Dr Aveling goes on to say –
“Midwives will be trained to attend poor women when in labour. This will be one of the most important duties of our hospital and the benefits arising will not be confined to the town alone……….There is no reason why every village should not in time have a certified midwife.”

The report continues to describe the discussions but nowhere can I find what “diseases peculiar to women” they were referring to!

The original target fell far short of the actual cost. Luckily the Mayor T Jessop, a Sheffield Cutler, provided enough money to cover the eventual cost of over £2300. As a reward the hospital was named the Jessop Hospital for Women. It remained a hospital until its closure in 2001.

Janet C. Senior, Assistant Librarian