Indianapolis Flower Mission

A women’s charity organization, the Indianapolis Flower Mission served the sick poor of the Circle City for over one hundred years. Part of a national movement, the charity began in 1876 when Alice Wright, the daughter of a prominent railroad manager, and a handful of her friends started taking bouquets of fresh-cut flowers, canned preserves, fresh fruit, and reading materials to patients at the Indianapolis City Hospital (now Eskenazi Hospital, formerly Wishard Memorial). Within a few years, they began visiting poor patients in their homes, taking necessities like food, bedding, and clothing. Although these women’s tasks began simply, the organization branched out into other activities as the women entered the political sphere, actively fundraising and organizing projects.

Nursing (1883-1920)

The philanthropic society pioneered several important developments in Indiana healthcare. In 1883, the organization founded the Flower Mission Training School for Nurses, the first nursing school in the state, part of a nationwide movement to professionalize nursing. The City Hospital took charge of the school in 1896, which closed in 1980. The mission also started the city’s premier visiting nurse program in 1884, which continued under the Public Health Nursing Association. The public health, or district, nurse visited poor patients at home, assisting with nutrition and hygiene as well as medical problems.

Hospitals (1895-1937)

The Flower Mission also founded several hospitals in Indianapolis. Starting in 1895, the organization administered the Eleanor Hospital for Sick Children, named for the deceased daughter of Colonel Eli Lilly, a local philanthropist and pharmaceutical entrepreneur who made a substantial donation to the facility. Located at Capitol Avenue and 18th Street, Eleanor Hospital was pediatric hospital in Indiana, operating until 1909 after the City Hospital opened a children’s unit.

In the early 1900s, the Flower Mission made the anti-tuberculosis movement one of its key causes. The charity’s 25-bed hospital for “incurables,” founded in 1903, constituted the only medical institution in Indiana for patients in the final stages of tuberculosis (TB). Owned and operated by the City Hospital, it was torn down in 1923 to make room for a new administration building. The second TB hospital, a house on Coe Street, was condemned in 1930, forcing the organization to treat patients in their homes. After years of intensive lobbying and fundraising, the charity built its third tuberculosis hospital, the 100-bed Flower Mission Memorial Hospital, in 1937.

Cheering the Sick (1938-1993)

The Indianapolis Flower Mission’s activities slowly declined for the next 56 years, never finding a new focus after the tuberculosis crisis abated, serving primarily as a hospital auxiliary and grant funding institution. One of the most active and enduring organizations of its kind, the organization finally disbanded in 1993. Today, the building that once housed the Flower Mission Memorial Hospital contains the Bellflower Clinic and the Wishard Memorial Nursing Museum, which documents the history of the nursing school that the Flower Mission founded. To visit the museum, stop by during open hours (Wednesdays, 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.) or contact the museum at (317) 630-6233 to schedule an appointment.

Images

Former Hospital

Former Hospital

The only remaining building that once housed the Flower Mission Hospital, it was originally intended to treat tuberculosis patients. Wishard Memorial Hospital owns the building and has used it for a variety of functions. Currently, it houses the Bellflower Clinic. The stonework above the door reads: “Indianapolis Flower Mission Memorial Hospital.” Photo Credit: Photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton, 2013 | Creator: Kurl Lee Nettleton View File Details Page

1887 Nursing Class

1887 Nursing Class

The four nursing graduates of Flower Mission Training School for Nurses class of 1887 in a ward of the Indianapolis City Hospital. The initial class sizes were quite small, beginning with the first graduating class of five students in 1885. The City Hospital took over management of the school in 1894, which closed its doors in 1980 after training 2,750 nurses. Image courtesy of IUPUI University Library Special Collections and Archives. | Source: IUPUI Special Collections and Archives View File Details Page

Visiting Nurse

Visiting Nurse

A district nurse at the Indianapolis City Hospital dispensary, ca. 1907. The first public health nurse in the city, the district nurse would make house calls at the behest of the Flower Mission administrators and the City Dispensary physicians. Image courtesy of IUPUI University Library Special Collections and Archives. | Source: IUPUI Special Collections and Archives View File Details Page

First TB Hospital, 1917

First TB Hospital, 1917

Flower Mission Hospital for Incurables at 960 Locke Street, ca. 1917. The building, which is the smaller structure on the right, was erected in 1903 for the care of patients in the last stages of tuberculosis. Image Courtesy of IUPUI University Library Special Collections and Archives View File Details Page

Tuberculosis Poster

Tuberculosis Poster

A 1941 poster warning against the danger of physical contact in transmitting tuberculosis from a Work Projects Administration (WPA) art project. Image courtesy of IUPUI University Library Special Collections and Archives. | Source: IUPUI Special Collections and Archives. View File Details Page

Third TB Hospital, 1937

Third TB Hospital, 1937

Built in 1937, the Flower Mission Memorial Hospital was the organization™s third hospital for tuberculosis patients. The institution™s first patients arrived from Louisville, Kentucky, where nearly 70 percent of its residents evacuated following the Great Flood of 1937, which devastated the Ohio River Valley. Image courtesy of IUPUI University Library Special Collections and Archives | Source: IUPUI Special Collections and Archives View File Details Page

TB Hospital, 2013

TB Hospital, 2013

The third tuberculosis hospital building, as seen in the previous photograph, still stands. Although the trees block much of the view, some of the building's unique features, such as the dormer windows jutting from the roof, are visible. Photo Credit: Photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton, 2013 | Source: Kurt Lee Nettleton, View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Brittany D. Kropf, “Indianapolis Flower Mission,” Discover Indiana, accessed May 24, 2017, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/18.

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