Belleville General Hospital Foundation (BGHF) hosted a celebratory farewell event on July 17th, where the original founders of Belleville General Hospital (BGH) – the Women’s Christian Association (WCA), wrapped up operations after 139 years. The event was punctuated by a generous $357,000 gift, for improvements to the Maternal Child Department (Quinte 7) at BGH.
Local dignitaries, senior leadership QHC officials, members of the BGFH Board, and other special guests shared heartfelt messages of gratitude and thanks to the remaining members of the WCA. A special commemorative bronze plaque was presented to Irene Hiebert, WCA Acting Chair, which will find a permanent home in the Hastings Main Entrance lobby.
A Grand Trunk Railway passenger-train accident in 1872 was the catalyst for a group of spirited Belleville women, led by Harriette Lyon Jaques, to form the WCA some five years later. After a period of inactivity on the part of the City, these tenacious women decided to take action themselves to build a hospital and home for the aged and underprivileged. The WCA opened the hospital on July 20, 1886. The hospital was expanded in 1890, a school of nursing was started in 1892, and new wings were added in 1911 and 1918. The BGH Auxiliary started in 1938 and in 1948; the WCA deeded the hospital to the city. From 1998 to now, the WCA has supported QHC through donations to BGHF.
Patricia Guernsey, Chair, BGHF, offered these remarks, “For 139 years, the WCA has supported the elderly, needy and sick in our community. As a result of their support today the WCA will continue to lift us all up well into the future. Congratulations and thank you ladies.”
Concluding a legacy of inspiring women before them, nine remarkable women remain as the final members of the WCA: Irene Hiebert, Diane Sule, Alfreda Rupert, Mary Bould, Clara Davenport, Elaner Pound, Ann Hitchon, Audrey Williams Brown, and Fran Knudsen. Irene Hiebert remarked, “I think back to Harriette Lyon Jaques and Jane Clement Jones – the founders of our movement and I’m moved that over 130 years ago these progressive, thoughtful women led us to this point today. They never heard of a glass ceiling and thankfully, if there was such a concept – they blew through it. As we say goodbye today, we want to ensure that we continue to care for the future of women and children by offering a gift to the BGH Foundation for the renovation of Quinte 7.”