Hospital Auxiliary: A commitment to caring

Long before women were allowed to vote, or could get away with talking back to their husbands, or were even considered 'people' under the law, there was a group of women in Chilliwack defying that hard hand.

Andrea Lister's book 'Commitment to Caring' celebrates 100 years of Chillwiack Hospital Auxiliary.

Long before women were allowed to vote, or could get away with talking back to their husbands, or were even considered ‘people’ under the law, there was a group of women in Chilliwack defying that hard hand.

Ever wonder how Chilliwack’s first hospital was built?

It was through the determination of the Chilliwack Hospital Auxiliary, a group of 38 women dedicated to getting a hospital built in their town.

“These women were forces of nature really,” said Andrea Lister, author of the new book Commitment to Caring, a detailed account of the Auxiliary’s first 100 years.

“They got what needed to be done done.”

Lister, who was born at Chilliwack General Hospital, was well versed in the Auxiliary’s storied past long before starting her research. Her mom has been a member for nine years, and her great great grandmother Julia Grossman and her great great aunt Elva Grossman were the Auxiliary’s founding members.

Following the birth of his first child on Dec. 19, 1900, Carl Grossman, a young farmer living in Chilliwack, wrote to his mother Julia Grossman in Hamilton, Ontario. The excited father detailed the at-home event telling his mother about the hour-and-a-half wait for the doctors in the snow, and how his wife “was a brick and only groaned,” and how the doctor ended up having to stay the night not wanting to brave the weather with his tired eyes.

Julia Grossman was aghast. She’d had a hospital in Hamilton for 12 years already. How could a community not have one?

She and her daughter Elva agreed to move to Chilliwack on the promise of a hospital being built, which got the fundraising ball rolling.

The Auxiliary was formed on May 1, 1911. The hospital was officially opened on Feb. 28, 1912.

Through her research, Lister soon found the Auxiliary’s story went well beyond her family’s roots.

“These women were amazing,” said Lister. “In the early years, they did a phenomenal amount of work.”

They raised chickens, provided eggs, fruit jars and made preserved jams all for the hospital, they sewed patient gowns and sheets, knitted blankets and baby clothes, and even made feather-down pillows from Christmas turkeys.

They held fundraising concerts, teas, bashes. They sold ‘Support the Hospital’ tags similar to today’s Livestrong wristbands. They stood on street corners and went door-to-door asking for support.

And they did it all through times of war and the Depression.

“These are things that just don’t happen anymore,” said Lister.

That early dedication has continued through the years.

The Auxiliary has served 50,000 fair meals, held three Feast of Nations fundraising bashes, knitted countless baby clothes, donated approximately $5 million, and from 1998 to 2010 its members served a whopping 276,332 volunteer hours.

“I think we take our hospitals for granted as something the government provides for us, and I don’t think a lot of people realize the work that the Auxiliary has done,” said Lister. “We spend a lot of time complaining that there’s not enough money when we could be donating our used goods, and clothes and money to this worthy cause.”

To purchase Commitment to Caring, Auxiliary members will have booths set up at Walmart from April 7 to 9, PriceSmart from April 14 to 16, Minter Country Gardens from April 28 to 30 and Cottonwood Mall, in front of Sears, from April 28 to 30.

The book is $20 with all proceeds going to the Chilliwack Hospital Auxiliary.

For more information, contact Sheila Lister at 604-792-4029.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: Chilliwack youth coach acquitted of sexual touching of a minor

BC Supreme Court justice finds reasonable doubt despite not believing the accused

Motorists were ‘driving like their own Indy 500’ before fatal Abbotsford crash, court hears

Family member declares defence request for 90-day jail sentence a ‘joke’

World champion SFU Pipe Band comes to Chilliwack

SFU Pipe Band will put on a celebration of culture, music and heritage at Chilliwack Cultural Centre

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from Feb. 24 to March 1

Chilliwack biologist to speak on climate change at Green Party AGM

Dr. Carin Bondar is an author, adjunct professor and an explorer who has discovered new species

VIDEO: Illicit drug overdoses killed 981 in B.C. in 2019, down 38%

Chief coroner says figures were down about a third in the province’s fourth year of the opioid crisis

VIDEO: Protesters block tracks in Maple Ridge

West Coast Express train service has been suspended, buses arranged for commuters

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

B.C. takes over another Retirement Concepts senior care home

Summerland facility latest to have administrator appointed

Man pleads guilty to stabbing woman, off-duty cop outside North Delta elementary school

The suspect, whose name is under a publication ban, faced 10 charges in relation to this incident

RCMP pull office from Wet’suwet’en territory, but hereditary chiefs still want patrols to end

Chief says temporary closure of field office not enough as Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute drags on

Prescription opioids getting B.C. addicts off ‘poisoned’ street drugs

Minister Judy Darcy says Abbotsford pilot project working

Royals, Elvis, Captain Cook: Hundreds of wax figures find new life in B.C. man’s home

Former director of Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum still hopes to revive wax figure tourism

Teck CEO says Frontier withdrawal a result of tensions over climate, reconciliation

Don Lindsay speaks at mining conference, a day after announcing suspension of oilsands project

Most Read