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Mary Mildred Hammond Sullivan spent her life serving the poor

Top: Mary Mildred Hammond Sullivan at the age of 19. Below: An artist’s rendition of the Nursery and Child’s Hospital. The hospital was located at the corner of 51st Street and Lexington Avenue in New York City

Mary Mildred Hammond Sullivan, social activist and wife of Algernon Sydney Sullivan, engaged in many efforts to assist the downtrodden. Sullivan worked tirelessly for nearly forty years as the director of the Nursery and Child’s Hospital of New York in the late 19th– and early 20th-centuries.

The hospital was founded by Mrs. Cornelius DuBois as the Nursery for the Children of Poor Women in 1854. DuBois realized that many children in the city were left unsupervised while their parents worked, so she organized this new asylum to function as the country’s first day care center. Sullivan first became involved as Board Secretary before taking over as director of the hospital, which was renamed the Nursery and Child’s Hospital of New York.

Unlike most people who attempted to better the welfare of children during this era, Sullivan understood that the best way to impact the life of a child at risk was to also benefit that child’s mother. Sullivan also felt that service was the best way to improve one’s own life—an idea she put very well when she said,  “. . .  through this work it has been given to us to realize how elevating to oneself is the loving effort to help others.”

The sole fundraiser for the Nursery and Child’s Hospital was the annual Charity Ball, an event that was not only successful financially but also an important society event among the city’s elite. Sullivan first attended the ball as a new bride in 1857. By 1883 she was chairing the event, a role that lasted until 1919.

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