As the Saints settled in the valley, and began organizing various needs for the community, it became clear that medical education needed to be addressed. There were a few male doctors, but the women wanted women to assist them in having their babies. As well, women were more concerned about health care and teaching hygiene. Eliza R. Snow, with the support of Pres. Brigham Young, sent six women back east to attend medical school. Upon their return, a building was purchased to house the first Mormon hospital. There were other religious based hospitals in the valley (St. Mark’s and Holy Cross), but this new hospital would be willing to treat everyone whether they could pay or not. In the late 1800s Deseret Hospital would serve the LDS community with an all woman board of directors. They had to close the hospital eight years later, because of lack of funding; it appeared the generous offer of paying only if you could afford it was interpreted as no one felt they could really afford it, so paying became less of a reality. Relief Societies were asked to donate money regularly, but interest soon waned. The cost of this generous blunder was great.
Ellis R. Shipp, Romania B. Pratt Penrose, Ellen Ferguson, Martha Hughes Cannon, Elvira S. Barney, and Margaret C. Shipp spent six months back east to get their degrees. They returned home to train women as doctors and nurses. These women were also set apart by the brethren to give blessings over the bedside of patients. Eliza Snow made it clear to the women their medical training and service would be just as critical, and seen just as important, as sending missionaries around the world.
In 1905, Dr. W. H. Groves LDS Hospital opened its doors, W.H. Groves being the main financial contributor. Eventually, the Groves LDS Hospital would just be called LDS Hospital. In 1911, the leaders in the Primary Association became concerned for the medical care of the children and created a wing at the hospital. Ten years later, an old home was remodeled to house its first separate facility, just for the children. It was named Primary Children’s Hospital.
The Cottonwood Stake Relief Society established their own maternity hospital (one was also set up by the Snowflake, Arizona Stake Relief Society). This hospital would come to be known as Cottonwood Hospital.
It was the Relief Society that showed initial interest in caring for the medical needs of the Saints. Other projects included operating milk depots for malnourished children, conducting various health clinics for mothers, as well as training for the children. Relief Societies supplied layette kits for new mothers and saw to medical and dental care, whether the patients could afford it or not. This philosophy just seems to be the Relief Society’s lot in life.
The dedication of the Deseret Hospital can be found here in the Woman’s Exponent.