LCMH by the Decades: 1940s

At the opening of the decade, and in the midst of celebrating its 10th anniversary, Little Company of Mary was entering a period of expansion for both its Nursing School and the hospital itself. During “The War Years,” the population surrounding the hospital was experiencing a rapid growth, increasing the demand on the facility and prompting discussions of expanding. As World War II continued into 1944, the need for nurses amplified. With 118 nurses in training, the war requirements increased the Hospital’s need to 150 nurses. The growing number of nurses led Little Company of Mary to begin planning for a nurses’ residence, a separate building for the nurses to live in and attend school. A year later, in November 1945, the new nurses’ residence opened, providing living quarters, classrooms, a library, and recreational facilities for 175 student nurses.

Although the schedule was demanding—nursing students attended classes during the day and usually worked six days a week either in the evening or on night shifts—students at Little Company of Mary’s Nursing School gained invaluable clinical experience, which soon became well known. As the Hospital’s Nursing School reputation grew, young women eagerly sought admission, but only 70 to 75 students were accepted each year.

Once enrolled in the nursing program, women completed a three-year course that provided classroom instruction and supervised practice that prepared the students to care for the sick, promote health and fight disease. Little Company of Mary’s program emphasized that each patient was an individual, a member of a family and a citizen of the community. The Sisters stressed to their students that the psychological, spiritual and social aspects of healing were all equally important, creating a well-rounded education.

After the War ended, the Hospital put its well-trained nurses to work as Little Company of Mary Hospital played a major role during the Baby Boom. In July of 1946 alone, four sets of twins were born within 10 days; countless newborns kept the Hospital’s nursery consistently full. The Sisters used their creativity though, collecting and padding wash basins to accommodate the newborns, and converting donated Burney Bros. breadboxes into functioning temporary bassinets.

In 1948 the Hospital gave parents of babies born at Little Company of Mary Hospital the opportunity to list their child’s name and birth date in permanent books maintained by the Auxiliary. The program still continues today, and these special “LCM Baby Alumni” are remembered in the prayers of the Sisters and at special masses celebrated in the Hospital’s Chapel. The books are kept on display in the Family Birth Center.

With the population growing in nearby communities, Little Company of Mary began planning an expansion project to meet the increased needs of more patients and families. In September of 1948, Chicago Mayor Martin Kennelly was named the honorary chairman of a capital campaign to raise $150,000 to build a five-story addition to the Hospital. Community residents supported the Hospital’s building projects in various ways—proceeds from the annual football game between rival teams of Leo and Mount Carmel High Schools held in Soldier Field were generously given to the Hospital.

By 1949, as the decade came to a close, construction was complete and five more floors were added to the Tower Building, establishing Little Company of Mary Hospital as a beacon of hope to those who entered its doors. (Photo above from A Healing Presence shows the hospital in 1949.)

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Information from A Healing Presence: The story of Little Company of Mary Hospital’s Journey of Unconditional Love, by Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers, Maurice Possley, Editor

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