For the Love of Babies

The dedication of the Bradford Memorial Hospital for Babies

Staff with a young patient (in the crib) at the dedication of the Bradford Memorial Hospital for Babies  in 1930. The Bradford Memorial Hospital was an integral part of what would eventually become known as Children’s Medical Center.

Children’s Medical Center traces its beginning back 100 years, to April 1913 when a compassionate and visionary group of nurses, led by May Smith, started an open-air “baby camp” to care for Dallas babies on the lawn of what would soon become Parkland Hospital. They had a dream that a hospital dedicated exclusively to children would result in fewer child deaths and an overall healthier pediatric population. The past 100 years have proven them right.

May Smith

Nurse May Smith

However, years before May oversaw the Dallas Baby Camp, she served as a private nurse for Dallas businessman Thomas L. Bradford Sr. and his wife, Maidie. The Bradfords’ daughter, Elizabeth, suffered from infantile paralysis — an infectious disease caused by a poliovirus.

Elizabeth Bradford and Her Wagon

Elizabeth eventually recovered, and years later would drive her small cart and pony from the Bradford home on Turtle Creek to the fledgling baby camp to visit her beloved May and the babies in her care. She often begged May to let her take any babies well enough back to her home in the cart. It was not unusual for Elizabeth’s mother to find her daughter in the Bradford living room, surrounded by laughing crawling, toddling babies.

Little Elizabeth, of course, grew up, married and had a son of her own. Then, in the late 1920s, she was killed in a car collision in Mineral Wells, Texas. Her father, who had already lost his wife in 1926, was devastated. The women who made up his entire world were gone.

Continuing the Bradford Legacy

Ann and Bryan Corrigan

Ann and Bryan Corrigan

Ann and Bryan Corrigan represent the fourth and fifth generations, respectively, of the Bradford family to give back to Children’s through service and philanthropy. Read More

Alone now in the large home where Elizabeth had once brought all those babies, he found some solace in an idea for a fitting memorial. The baby camp had been her life’s love, and though that life had been taken, he could see to it that her love would go on.

In 1929, the Dallas newspapers would tell the story of a wealthy Dallas widower giving funds and land for a permanent home for the baby camp. Groundbreaking and construction of  The Bradford Memorial Hospital For Babies – the first children’s hospital south of St. Louis and an integral part of what would eventually become known as Children’s Medical Center – occurred that same year. What the stories did not say was that the foundation for that gift had already been laid by a little girl with only a cart and a pony.

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