Greater Grand Rapids Womens History Council
  P.O Box 68874, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-8874                     Phone: 616-574-7307



October 27, 2016

GGRWHC Board of Directors

Mary Seeger,
Jo Ellyn Clarey,
Susan Coombes
Ruth VanStee,
Connie Ingham
Jennifer Bryant 
Jo Ellyn Clarey
Kristin Du Mez 
Connie Ingham 
Kyle Irwin
Mary Seeger
Ruth Stevens 
Amy Dunham Strand 
Julie Tabberer
Kate van Liere   
Ruth Van Stee 
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Congratulations to the Mary Free Bed Guild!   
Inducted into the
Michigan Women's Hall of Fame

By 1915 the initial small committee had grown to 50-member guild.
On October 19 in Lansing, the Grand Rapids-based 125-year-old
Carol Springer, Guild president, with Shirley Zeller, president of the Michigan Women's Studies Association board. 
Mary Free Bed Guild was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.  Carole Springer, current president of the Guild was there, along with nearly 20 current guild members, to accept the honor. 
Guild members' table at induction event 

The Mary Free Bed effort dates back to 1891 when a small group of women decided to raise funds to cover the cost of a "free bed"  in the Union Benevolent Association Hospital. They came up with a fund-raiser, calling on everyone whose name was Mary, a very popular name at the time, to donate ten cents. And they encouraged everyone else to donate ten cents in honor of a Mary they knew, family or friend.  This free bed took on the name of  the Mary Free Bed.  A Mary Free Bed committee was formed to continue the support.

In 1911, the committee formalized itself as the Mary Free Bed Guild to expand membership hoping to raise enough to support a free bed in the hospital for an entire year. The expanded Guild soon came up with other fund raising ideas, including benefit concerts bringing famous operatic soloists and big-city orchestras to Grand Rapids.
Members of the concert series ticket sales team pose for a group photo in 1912. Top row: Maud Miller, Mary Wykes, Lottie Thoits, Charlotte Irwin, Muriel Montelius, Amelia Keegan.  
Bottom Row: Mrs. A.B. Smith, Rosamund Rouse, Mrs. Curtis Bunting.

By the 1920s they turned their interest to rehabilitation, particularly of children, with the opening of the first pediatric orthopedic clinic. In 1923, almost 70 years before the 1990 Americans
Junior members of the Guild, Peg Neuman (left) and Jessie Grimes (center) organized activities with some of the children.
with Disabilities Act, the Guild worked with the Grand Rapids Public Schools to establish accessible classrooms for those children with disabilities. In 1930 they opened a Children's Convalescent Home, later to include a brace shop and amputee training program. 

In the 1950s they began to include adults in their rehabilitation programs. Finally, in 1974, in need of more space they broke ground for the current campus on Wealthy Street at Jefferson Avenue.
Guild members at the groundbreaking on June 28, 1974.

The venture which started as small committee grew to include a $62.5 million flagship hospital, home to 167 inpatients beds, 14 inpatient and 31 outpatient programs, a medical group, and a rehabilitation network which provides expertise throughout Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

The 120 women of the Guild govern Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital with majority representation on all boards and committees.

Celebrating their 125th anniversary throughout this year, the Guild has hosted an art exhibit, other events, and the publication of an updated edition of their history, In the Name of All Marys, by Gordon Olson, first written for their 100th anniversary.  Find out more about their anniversary here.

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Don't miss the November 10 Program
Celebrating Local Women in the Armed Forces 

The first woman in West Michigan to be admitted to the Marine Corps: Marjorie Newton Barrett of Cascade Township.
Cooperating with the Grand Rapids Historical Society we are celebrating Veterans Day with Will Miner of the Grand Rapids Public Library and his presentation on Grand Rapids women serving in the armed forces during World War II.

Grand Rapids Pubic Library Auditorium, 7 p.m.

More details in the next email or visit the

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Not a current member of GGRWHC?   Register or renew your membership and help offset the expenses associated with annual research and programs. Your membership helps to set the record straight on the women who've made history here in our community.

GGRWHC Board Meetings

Board meetings are held on the second Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at the Vanderveen Center for the Book at the Grand Rapids Public Library. If you have suggestions for programs, oral histories, or other items, please email us or plan to attend a meeting.



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Thank you for your interest in preserving and celebrating the history of the many phenomonal women who've helped to shape West Michigan!  If you aren't already a member of the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council, consider showing your support through annual membership.  Visit our web site for more information and the ability to register using Pay Pal online!

Hats off to the historical women who've shaped West Michigan!