How we began
The Women’s Auxiliary of The Hospital for Sick Children was formed in 1950 in response to two needs: the extra demands on staff anticipated by the move to the new University Ave. site, and the need for a medical library in the new Hospital.Except for a few ladies who sewed and some members of the Junior League, the Hospital had been without a women’s group since 1889 when the famous “Ladies Committee” begun by Elizabeth McMaster 14 years earlier was dissolved.
Dr. Helen Reid Chute, Chief Visionary and Founder of the Women’s Auxiliary, insisted that the idea was actually conceived during ‘pillow talk.’ Her husband, the late Dr. Laurie Chute, then Associate Director of Research Laboratories at SickKids, was trying to build up a decent Medical Library for the new Hospital. Unable to find the required $2,000, he suggested his wife might organize some ladies to raise the money. In 1949, 11doctors' wives met to discuss the idea.
In March 1950, the 88 charter members who attended the Inaugural Meeting of the Women’s Auxiliary of The Hospital for Sick Children were either doctors’ or trustees’ wives, women staff members or members of the former HSC sewing group. Mrs. R.M. Wansborough became the first president. The group raised $450 at a rummage sale in October of 1950, enabling them to hold a bazaar at Casa Loma that November. Of the $5000 raised at the bazaar, $2000 went to help set up a Medical Library when the new hospital opened the following spring.
It was decided that membership would be more desirable if it was “by invitation only.” This, combined with a guarantee of meaningful work and job satisfaction, led to a membership of 209 by the end of the first year. It is interesting, that today, active membership is about 210.
The first service provided by the newly formed Auxiliary was to guide tours of the new Hospital. Other services were added or changed as the need grew. As the founders knew, a service must be challenging in order to attract and keep volunteers. Services were expanded and soon included occupational therapy, medical records, admitting, the cleft palate clinic and cardiac research.
The Women’s Auxiliary established the 5 Fifty 5 Shop in 1952 near the University Avenue entrance raising over $12,000 in its first year. “the shop”, now in its third location, is a very successful business located in the Atrium and is staffed by over 80 volunteers, seven days a week.
The Women’s Auxiliary of The Hospital for Sick Children is now a self-governing group with its own Board of Directors who are able to decide on the disbursement of the funds raised.
Why are we still so viable? We have demonstrated our ability to adapt to the Hospital’s ever-changing needs and attract dynamic women who are able to work independently or as part of a team. We are proud that all or administrative work is done by our own volunteers. We know that a service must be challenging in order to attract and keep volunteers. The Women’s Auxiliary is a highly valued and well-respected organization within the Hospital.