A Ladies’ Advisory Board, formed in 1896, was the forerunner of The William W. Backus Hospital Auxiliary.
These ladies made frequent, and unexpected, visits to the hospital to inspect every nook and cranny. They reported on more than one occasion that they “… found things to be neat and orderly.” The Ladies’ duties also included giving advice and counsel to personnel and students in the Nurses’ Training School.
Members of the initial Ladies Advisory Board read like a “Who’s Who” of Norwich Victorian-era industrialsm: Mrs. William A. Slater, Mrs. Charles Hubbard, Mary Osgood, Mrs. Charles Gale, Mrs. James Case, Miss Louise Howe, and Mrs. Archibald Mitchell Jr. These families that played such important roles in the history of Norwich, also were key to establishing the solid foundation for the Hospital’s Auxiliary.
From the very inception of the Auxiliary members have provided unqualified assistance to Backus Hospital. In the Hospital’s early years. The Hospital’s Executive Committee reported in 1913 “… one of the greatest improvements of the year is the acquisition of a new automobile ambulance for which, as well as for many other favors, (we) feel a deep sense of gratitude to the Ladies Auxiliary Board.”
In 1923, the Auxiliary members undertook a community membership drive that brought in 1,251 members.
In 1926, the Auxiliary asked the Hospital’s Executive Committee for representation on the board. A short time later, the board approved the Auxiliary President to be a member of the Hospital Executive Board and to attend meetings. A constitution and by-laws for a permanent Auxiliary organization was approved that year.
Renovation of the Isolation Building in 1926 and conversion of the original Nurses’ Home into a maternity unit were accomplished through the efforts and financial contributions of the Women’s Auxiliary.
The Hospital’s Junior Auxiliary was organized in 1933. The 125 teenage girls who enrolled were the forerunners of today’s enthusiastic Backus Junior Volunteer Program for High School young men and women.
A Children’s Solarium was made possible by the Friedsam Foundation in 1949. On March 1 of that year a Coffee Shop opened in the hospital basement, staffed by members of the Women’s Auxiliary. Proceeds would be used to provide hospital equipment. The Coffee Shop was so successful it outgrew its initial headquarters in just six months. Today, the Canteen is run by Auxiliary members and provides refreshments to staff and the community.
The Backus Auxiliary is a vibrant organization and continues to attract purposeful and dedicated people who commit themselves to making their Hospital stronger and better.