A Look at Mary Free Bed's History
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital originated in 1891 when a small group of Grand Rapids women recognized the need for medical care for patients of limited financial means in our community. They embarked on a fund-raising campaign to secure the use of a free bed in one of the local hospitals. The group solicited financial support from the Grand Rapids community, asking for contributions from everyone named Mary, as well as from those having friends or relatives with the name. They soon raised enough money to endow a free bed, which subsequently became known as the Mary Free Bed. As the fund and community need grew, other women joined the group, and in 1911 it became incorporated as the Mary Free Bed Guild of Grand Rapids.
The 1930s brought about additional expansion as the guild opened a 12-bed children's convalescent unit at 1411 East Fulton Street. This early effort was widely recognized when Mary Free Bed received designation in 1935 as the Orthopedic Center of Western Michigan by the state Crippled Children's Commission. In the same decade, the guild opened the Mary Free Bed Brace Shop, a specialized service that developed custom orthotics, braces, and supports.
As the 1930s gave way to the '40s, the Mary Free Bed Guild continued its mission of treating and rehabilitating disabled children and expanded its services to provide care for cerebral palsy patients as well as inpatient and outpatient care for amputee patients.
By 1953, the institution had established itself as a regional center for juvenile rehabilitation services and officially changed its name to Mary Free Bed Guild Children's Hospital and Orthopedic Center. The rest of the decade saw Mary Free Bed expand to provide patients with additional services such as music and speech therapy.
The 1960s brought even more exciting changes to Mary Free Bed. To serve an increasing number of patients not requiring 24-hour care, the institution began offering outpatient services in 1960. Growth continued when the hospital initiated an adult rehabilitation program and expanded care for spinal injury and stroke patients. To reflect this expansion into adult care, the institution was renamed Mary Free Bed Hospital and Rehabilitation Complex in 1966, and for the first time, 12 men joined 12 guild women to form the new complex's board of trustees.
Today, 120 guild and junior guild women continue the over 100-year tradition of serving the disabled through operation of the 80-bed Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. In addition, the hospital offers a satellite system of rehabilitative services to West Michigan area hospitals. This steady progress in the areas of social services, technology, clinical research, and facility improvements led to Mary Free Bed's emergence as a nationally recognized hospital complex devoted exclusively to providing comprehensive rehabilitation services for adults and children.
Want to know more about Mary Free Bed's history? Check out a timeline of Mary Free Bed's history since 1891, with photos.