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Lincoln Hospital, 1909-ca. 1915

Location: 1109 N. Senate Ave., Indianapolis (Marion Co., Indiana) 46202

Installed 2018 Indiana Historical Bureau and Friends of Lincoln Hospital

ID#: 49.2018.3

Text

Side One

Responding to racial segregation in the Progressive Era, African American doctors established their own hospital here after being barred from treating black patients in city hospitals. With 12 rooms and a surgery suite, black physicians could fully practice their profession and demonstrate competency in high-skill disciplines. Women’s Auxiliary helped sustain operations.

Side Two:

Lincoln Hospital served the medical needs of a growing black population and was open to all classes throughout the state. The hospital’s training school for nurses afforded black women professional opportunities. Lincoln, along with Ward’s Sanitarium and Sisters of Charity Hospital, helped uplift Indianapolis’s black community through improved access to health care.

Annotated Text

Side One

Responding to racial segregation in the Progressive Era, African American doctors established their own hospital here after being barred from treating black patients in city hospitals. [1] With 12 rooms and a surgery suite, black physicians could fully practice their profession and demonstrate competency in high-skill disciplines. [2] Women’s Auxiliary helped sustain operations. [3]

Side Two

Lincoln Hospital served the medical needs of a growing black population and was open to all classes throughout the state. [4] The hospital’s training school for nurses afforded black women professional opportunities. [5] Lincoln, along with Ward’s Sanitarium and Sisters of Charity Hospital, helped uplift Indianapolis’s black community through improved access to health care. [6]

 


[1] “A Negro Hospital,” Indianapolis Recorder, July 17, 1909, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Lincoln Hospital,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 2, 1909, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; First Annual Report of Lincoln Hospital, Ending December 31, 1910 (Indianapolis: Sentinel Printing Company, 1911), Digital Images Collection, Indiana Historical Society; “Lincoln Memorial Banquet,” Indianapolis Recorder, June 3, 1911, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Emma Lou Thornbrough, Indiana Blacks in the Twentieth Century (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), 21, 27-28; Norma B. Erickson, “African-American Hospitals and Health Care in Early Twentieth Century Indianapolis, Indiana, 1894-1917” (master’s thesis, Indiana University, 2016), 4, 8, 27, 32, accessed IUPUI ScholarWorks Repository.

Racial segregation in the City of Indianapolis often left black residents without quality medical care and spurred black doctors to establish their own hospital. According to historian Norma Erickson, the physicians’ initiative intersected with Progressive Era principles and she noted that “science gained primacy at this time, offering explanations and solutions for many social problems. Applying the avalanche of scientific theories and discoveries to the human condition resulted in the aggregation of ‘experts’ and the professionalization of their activities.” In this atmosphere, black graduates sought to professionalize and practice their degrees and, in doing so, help African American individuals who had been excluded from medical treatment. At the time, Indianapolis hospitals barred black physicians from treating African American patients. In 1908, Lincoln Hospital co-founder Dr. Sumner Furniss commented that black citizens often avoided professional treatment and instead relied on patent medicines, home remedies, and superstitious healing. Those who sought the services of African American doctors were forced to seek treatment in their own homes or at the physician’s office. Erickson contended that: “Denied their civil rights by means of social segregation—and in the case of black doctors by professional exclusion—blacks were decisively relegated by whites to second-class citizenship.”

To respond to the needs of a growing black population in the Progressive Era, local black physicians established their own hospital in a two-story frame house on the corner of 11th and North Senate Avenue. The hospital’s first annual report noted that the entity incorporated as the Lincoln Hospital Association on June 30, 1909 and the hospital opened to the public on December 15, 1909. The Recorder reported that at the time of Lincoln’s founding Indianapolis lagged behind other large cities in terms of providing medical facilities specifically for black patients.

[2] “Lincoln Hospital,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 2, 1909, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; Indianapolis Recorder, January 8, 1910, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Lincoln Hospital Free Clinic,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 14, 1911, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; First Annual Report of Lincoln Hospital, 6-8, 12; Erickson, “African-American Hospitals,” 24, 48-50, 52, 68, 70.

Few opportunities existed for black doctors to practice in Indianapolis hospitals and those that found employment were prohibited from treating African American patients. Identifying a need for a hospital staffed by black doctors that treated black patients, a small group of African American doctors established Lincoln Hospital. The hospital’s First Annual Report noted that the facility was open to black patients with “curable non-contagious cases, where any reputable physician could bring his cases and treat them” for a range of conditions like cysts, child birth, carcinomas, and gunshot wounds. Lincoln opened in 1909 in a two-story frame house, utilizing equipment from the newly-closed State Hospital College, which was affiliated with IU’s School of Medicine. Its twelve rooms could accommodate seventeen patients. According to the annual report, Lincoln was “equipped with the latest pattern hospital beds, screens, back rests, tray tables, etc., in fact, every necessity of a modern, thoroughly equipped hospital.” A furnace heated the building and large grates and well-situated windows helped with ventilation and light. The hospital established a free dispensary, which functioned as a walk-in clinic or urgent care facility and provided medical schools with training opportunities. The W.E. English Ward, named for white Indiana businessman and politician William English, included two surgical wards, an obstetrical room, and a post-operative room. The primary surgical suite, gifted by white entrepreneur and Indianapolis Speedway president Carl Fisher, was the “special pride of the institution” and featured “every appliance necessary for surgical work.”

According to historian Norma Erickson, Lincoln’s surgical ward was crucial in allowing black physicians to practice medicine and demonstrate competency in their field. Because few postgraduate programs existed for black medical students and hospitals restricted their access to surgical facilities, black physicians had largely been excluded from the field of surgery or had to conduct surgery in poor conditions. Physician L. Aldridge lamented in The Freeman in 1914 that “the fibroid tumors [operations]” were “going daily to the hands of the white surgeon to make him wiser and richer while black men must crush out of their hearts their fondest hopes—because they have no place sufficiently well-equipped.” Lincoln’s surgical suite provided one opportunity for black physicians to bolster the health of the black community and benefit economically from their profession. Erickson aptly noted that “The ability to perform surgery was important to the Lincoln Hospital physicians, both symbolically and practically. On the interracial level, it provided dramatic evidence against racist attitudes . . . by demonstrating that black doctors could achieve competency in high-skill disciplines.” She added that without having access to sanitary operating rooms, “black physicians could not rise above kitchen table operations.”

[3] Indianapolis Recorder, January 8, 1910, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Ladies Auxillary [sic],” Indianapolis Recorder, October 8, 1910, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “A Miscellaneous Shower,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 15, 1910, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “A Folk Festival And Charity Ball,” Indianapolis Recorder, November 18, 1911, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; First Annual Report of Lincoln Hospital; “Lincoln Hospital Notes,” Indianapolis Recorder, August 9, 1913, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Tag Day for Lincoln Hospital,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 4, 1913, 8, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Charity and Lincoln Hospital,” Indianapolis Recorder, November 29, 1913, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Woman’s Council,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 24, 1914, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Erickson, “African-American Hospitals,” 12, 31, 71-72.

The Indianapolis Recorder noted in 1910 that Lincoln Hospital operated as a charitable institution and was “in no sense intended as a money making institution for the incorporators and those in control.” The hospital did not turn a profit, hence the “cost of keeping patients being only such amount as will be necessary to maintain the institution.” The organization relied on the efforts of women’s groups, primarily the Ladies Auxiliary of Lincoln Hospital, which formed in September of 1910. The hospital’s first annual report credited the group with providing material assistance to the hospital by securing donations and noted that their efforts produced a nearby “comfortable nurses’ home.”

The Indianapolis Recorder reported on many of the Auxiliary’s fundraising efforts, such as a 1910 “shower,” held at the hospital that was filling such “a long-felt-want” in the community. In 1911, the Auxiliary hosted a folk festival and charity ball to benefit the Alpha Home and Lincoln Hospital, which organizers hoped to be “one of the most brilliant spectacular social affairs Indianapolis society has had the opportunity of witnessing.” The group organized Tag Day in 1913, in which teams competed to “canvas thoroughly all sections of the city with the hope of meeting a hearty response from a generous public.” That same year former female patients organized the Lincoln Hospital Patients’ Club “for the purpose of looking after the needs of the hospital, this being the only one of its kind ever organized.” The Recorder noted in 1914 that a third group, the Women’s Council, formed as the “infant auxiliary [sic]” to the Lincoln Hospital. The council hosted benefit events, such as a carnival, revenue from which muslin and gingham would be purchased for “useful articles.” Council members also traveled to French Lick, where they informed the West Baden Springs Hotel, French Lick Church, and local schools about Lincoln Hospital and were “able to interest many white friends” in the work of the institution.

Self-organized women’s groups were often the backbones of such institutions, as was the case with the Sisters of Charity Hospital in Indianapolis. The Recorder noted in 1913 that approximately 900 women established the black hospital, who “by taxation and purchase of stock are succeeding beyond a doubt.” The article concluded “Women have brought success along this line so far.” Erickson contended that these community-led activities represented a “group of strong leaders with great resolve and the willingness of all types of individuals to sacrifice their time and money to secure this vehicle for racial uplift.”

[4] Indianapolis Recorder, January 8, 1910, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Lincoln Hospital,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 2, 1909, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; First Annual Report of Lincoln Hospital, 5, 8, 12-13; David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, eds., The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994), 729-730; Campbell Gibson and Kay Jung, “Historical Census Statistics On Population Totals By Race, 1790 to 1990, and By Hispanic Origin, 1970 to 1990, For Large Cities And Other Urban Places In The United States,” (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau, 2005), Table 15, accessed census.gov; Erickson, “African-American Hospitals,” 1, 7, 10, 17, 26, 31-32, 59, 73-74.

The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis noted that in the early 1900s waves of southern black migrants arrived in Indianapolis, specifically Indiana Avenue. The city’s swelling black population, increasing from 9,133 in 1890 to 21,816 by 1910, led to increased segregation and intensified health care needs for African Americans. The First Annual Report of Lincoln Hospital cited this population increase, as well as City Hospital’s discriminatory practices, as the impetus for establishing a hospital founded by black doctors to treat black patients. In 1909, the Indianapolis Recorder lamented that “None of the public Hospitals are open freely to colored people and a[t] the city hospital the fact that charity patients are exposed to clinics serves to deter many colored people from going there, whose home surroundings renders hospital treatment necessary.”

Although Ward’s Sanitarium treated black patients in Indianapolis as early as 1907, it served only those who could afford private care. In 1909, the Indianapolis Recorder reported that black physicians and citizens organized the Lincoln Hospital Association as a charitable organization, “open to all classes.” Lincoln provided patients with a range of payment options, allowing organizations like fraternal societies to endow beds for a year or in perpetuity, which would allow members to pay reduced rates. The hospital also noted that “Patients having no choice of physicians and who are unable to pay a fee for same will be furnished attention by members of the staff gratuitously if desired.” Lincoln provided a dispensary for “the free treatment of cases applying at the hospital for treatment.” The annual report noted that physicians and surgeons took turns staffing the dispensary, at which “all worthy indigent cases will be treated gratuitously.” In an effort to operate as charitably as possible, hospital staff asked the public to donate money, which allowed them to meet operating expenses and purchase materials like beds and towels. Some of the city’s white physicians and donors lent their financial, advisory, and professional support to Lincoln Hospital. Erickson noted that “sometimes white individuals who were not willing to see people sink into a hole not of their own making came forward to assist African Americans.”

[5] “Lincoln Hospital,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 2, 1909, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Indianapolis Recorder, January 8, 1910, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; First Annual Report of Lincoln Hospital, 8-12; “Lincoln Hospital Banquet,” Indianapolis Recorder, June 3, 1911, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Erickson, “African-American Hospitals,” 53-55, 57, 67.

The hospital’s annual report lamented that in Indianapolis “none of the training schools for nurses have admitted colored women as pupils.” The Indianapolis Recorder elucidated the lack of black nurses in the United States, stating in 1909 that “At one time most of the nursing, especially in the southern states was done by colored women. More recently the trained nurse has supplanted the old colored woman nurse. In order to meet this condition and to educate colored women as trained nurses” a school for African Americans became necessary. The Lincoln Hospital Training School for Nurses met this need, offering a two year training program that included lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on work. Students, women typically between twenty-one and thirty-five-years old, studied subjects like anatomy, physiology, obstetrics, surgery, bacteriology, and public hygiene. The intensive program required students to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, with a five hour break on Sundays.

In 1911, the Recorder praised Lincoln nurses for their “softness of touch,” “dexterity of purpose,” and “gentleness of spirit that grips and holds the admiration and the affections of the patient.” It added “God speed the day when there will be institutions of every kind owned and controlled by the race, that our boys and girls may have places in which to make practical application of the theories taught in the schools.” Historian Norma Erickson contended that in addition to providing black women with an income, black medical facilities in Indianapolis like Lincoln, Ward’s Sanitarium, and Sisters of Charity Hospital, offered respectability and an “avenue of social uplift and status in the black community.” These nurses benefited the medical profession as much as they benefitted from it. Many black residents previously reticent to seek the care of physicians (see footnote 1), began to frequent black hospitals, in part, because of interactions with sympathetic, professional, and accommodating nurses.

[6] “A Negro Hospital,” Indianapolis Recorder, July 17, 1909, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Dr. Ward’s Sanitarium and Hospital,” Indianapolis Recorder, August 7, 1909, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Lincoln Hospital,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 2, 1909, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Arrangement For Endowment of Beds at Lincoln Hospital,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 15, 1910, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; First Annual Report of Lincoln Hospital, 5, 8, 12; “Charity and Lincoln Hospital,” Indianapolis Recorder, November 29, 1913, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Lincoln Hospital or Charity Hospital—Which Shall It Be?,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 9, 1915, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Asks Receiver for Hospital,” The Indianapolis News, June 9, 1915, accessed Newspapers.com; The Indianapolis News, June 12, 1915, accessed Newspapers.com; R.L. Polk & Co.’s Indianapolis City Directory for 1915, 61 (Indianapolis: R.L. Polk & Co.), 1827, accessed Digital Collections of IUPUI University Library; R.L. Polk & Co.’s Indianapolis City Directory for 1915, 62 (Indianapolis: R.L. Polk & Co.), 1619, accessed Digital Collections of IUPUI University Library; Erickson, “African-American Hospitals,” 2, 7, 12, 31, 48, 50, 52-53, 56, 67, 70-75, 77, 91, 97.

In the early 20th century, Indianapolis hospitals barred black physicians from treating African American patients. Thus, black citizens often avoided professional treatment and instead relied on patent medicines, home remedies, and superstitious healing. Those who sought the services of African American doctors were forced to seek treatment at the physician’s office or in their own home. This lack of treatment left black communities disadvantaged. A trifecta of local black medical institutions, which included Lincoln Hospital, Sisters of Charity Hospital, and Ward’s Sanitarium, opened in the early 1900s, bolstering the health of the city’s black communities. Historian Norma Erickson concluded that “black institutions for health care were an attempt by the black community—especially its physicians—to achieve racial uplift through improved health care.” Overcoming housing and education segregation and discrimination proved impossible without “a healthy population, a goal unachievable without access to adequate health care or improving living and working conditions that weakened the body.”

Erickson noted that the trifecta worked to empower the black community by improving its health. The local black newspaper the Indianapolis Recorder contended in 1909 that Ward’s (a for-profit facility that treated patients of means) contributed towards this improvement, as one of the city’s enterprises that “are doing as much so much to uplift the race, by giving employment to Colored youth; and by establishing ideals to which they may attain.” Similarly, the paper noted in 1910 that with the opening of Lincoln, “the race now has two such institutions –both needed and both useful to this community.” It contended that overcoming the “sharp drawing of racial lines” in Indianapolis should be “surmounted just as it has been—by the Negro caring for his own. Race prejudice and custom is stronger than law, and the Negro simply wants more race pride and backbone to climb many obstacles now in his path.” Lincoln assisted with this by providing Alpha Home residents, elderly black women, with a place to stay after two fires displaced them. Erickson noted that the Sisters of Charity Hospital, which was owned and operated by African American clubwomen and treated some of the poorest residents, uplifted the community by working with juvenile courts and “wayward” girls.

In addition to social uplift, these institutions allowed for professional and economic uplift (see also footnotes 2 and 5). They granted women the opportunity to learn professional skills via nursing programs and allowed doctors to benefit financially by treating black patients. Erickson noted that “When patients could not be treated in the black hospitals, the opportunity for paid services went to white surgeons. The loss was not merely economic but also a blow to professional dignity—the crushing of their ‘fondest hopes.’” The institutions thus put money back into the black community. While the facilities uplifted the community, the community also uplifted the facilities through donations and fundraising events. These fundraisers provided recreation and entertainment for the community, as well as a platform for political speeches during election years. However, the volunteer efforts were not enough to keep Sisters of Charity or Lincoln Hospital in operation and, despite a proposed merger of the two institutions, they shut down due to lack of resources. No official closing date is listed for Lincoln Hospital, but in 1915 former Nursing Superintendent Ella C. Preston filed suit for the appointment of a receiver due to the hospital failing to pay wages owed. On June 12, 1915, the Indianapolis News reported that Lincoln’s building owner sold his property to the Indiana Realty Holding Company. By 1916, the Indianapolis City Directory listed James H. Jackson as the occupant of the building out of which Lincoln Hospital had operated. The Sisters of Charity Hospital closed in 1921 and black physicians were not permitted to treat black patients in Indianapolis’s City Hospital until 1942.