ABOUT HILL BRANCH
In 1912, the Baby Hospital of Alameda County – now known as UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland – was opened in the former home of the McElrath family on the border of Oakland and Berkeley. The brainchild of Bertha Wright, a visiting nurse in Alameda County, the Baby Hospital grew from a good idea to an institution almost overnight, thanks in large part to broad support from women of the East Bay who sponsored the project.
Two years later, the Branches were formed. Modeled on the “Twigs” of community support for a New York hospital, the Branches organized volunteers who put together a variety of fundraising and philanthropic efforts – from country fairs to asking for beds and equipment for the new hospital.
The all-female corps of volunteers hailed from across the East Bay, united by their support for a fledgling yet important resource. While several of the branches formed in 1914 have ceased to exist, Hill Branch, with membership from throughout the East Bay, has been in continuous operation and is looking forward, embracing new ways of reaching the community of supporters.
Always been about the kids: The women who formed the early Hill Branch came from across the East Bay, but shared a sense of social responsibility and, as women, cared for babies and young children.
From the start, Children's Hospital Branches opened its doors to all.
The hospital treated children under age 5 regardless of race, religion, or ability to pay.
Bertha Wright, a nurse and co-founder, understood that educating women about pregnancy and childbirth would result in healthier mothers and babies. Her early clinic had less than a 7 percent mortality rate compared to mortality rates that were anywhere from 12 to 20 percent elsewhere.
Wright also pioneered a birthing experience that cost about 25 percent less than the standard midwife. At a time when female doctors were a rarity, the hospital had female doctors on staff in 1922. (Harvard Medical School didn’t even admit women until 1945.) The Hospital was also one of the first on the west coast to have an African-American doctor on staff. The hospital remained at the forefront of providing care to all, treating the influx of immigrants to the area in the 30’s and 40’s as well as delivering and treating unmarried pregnant women.