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COLLECTION Identifier: BWH c007

Boston Lying-in Hospital records


The records of Boston Lying-in Hospital are the product of the hospital staff’s administrative, fundraising, publication, and public relations activities, the bulk of which are dated from 1921 through 1966.


  • 1855-1986 (inclusive),
  • Majority of material found within 1921–1966 .


Conditions Governing Access

Access requires advance notice. Access to unpublished administrative records is restricted for 50 years from creation date. Patient information is restricted indefinitely. Restricted records, except restricted patient photographs, are noted in the finding aid. Researchers may apply for access to restricted material. Consult the Director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library for further information. (email:

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to the Director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library. (email: However, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital does not hold copyright on all the materials in this collection. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Director are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.


6.4 cubic feet (2 record center cartons, 2 oversize boxes, 1 document box, and 1 roll of drawings.)

The Boston Lying-in Hospital records include, primarily, those records that were created during the time period that BLIH was a separate record keeping entity—before its merger with the Free Hospital for Women in 1966. Most of the records in this collection are 20th century in origin. Very few 19th century records are included except for some modern copy prints of early photographs and some annual reports. Some photographs in the collection are dated after 1966. The records capture the administrative and social history of the hospital through annual reports, photographs, clippings, special event planning records, and publications. Also included are some building specifications and blueprints for the hospital’s facility at Longwood Avenue. Except for a few photographs, the records do not include patient, student, or research records.

Historical Notes

Boston Lying-in Hospital (BLIH) was the earliest incarnation of what is known today as the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In 1832, the Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society and the Massachusetts Humane Society each contributed $5000 towards the establishment of a hospital “for the care and relief of poor and deserving women.” Dr. Walter Channing and Dr. Enoch Hale are credited as the founders and first attending physicians of the Boston Lying-in Hospital.

Boston Lying-in Hospital provided maternity care for indigent women at 718 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts and was the first institution of its kind in New England. By 1853, BLIH had outgrown its building and moved to Springfield and Worcester Streets. At this time the hospital was charging patients for board, but was not generating enough income to meet expenses. Consequently, the hospital was closed in 1856 and the property sold in 1857. By careful investment of the remaining funds after payment of debts, trustees were able to reopen the hospital in 1873 at 24 McLean Street. In 1923, BLIH relocated once more to 221 Longwood Avenue across the street from the Harvard Medical School quadrangle. In 1932, Richardson House was added to provide more private rooms for new mothers.

The Boston Lying-in Hospital’s obstetrics training program and the Free Hospital for Women’s gynecology training program, informally associated since 1922, were formally united in 1951. In 1966, the Boston Lying-in Hospital merged with the Free Hospital for Women in cooperation with Harvard Medical School, to form the Boston Hospital for Women (BHW). In 1975, BHW merged with the Peter Bent Brigham and the Robert B. Brigham Hospitals forming the Affiliated Hospitals Center. In 1980, at the time of the opening of a new state-of-the-art facility, the Affiliated Hospitals Center became known as the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School.

Many advances in the practice of obstetrics in the United States were pioneered by staff at the Boston Lying-in Hospital, including the use of anesthesia for labor pain, using rubber gloves and washing hands to prevent infection, outpatient services, heated bassinets for premature infants, and a nurse training school. The hospital also established pre-natal care clinics, standards for cesarean section procedures, cardiac care for pregnant women, and preventative medicine for newborns. The first RH factor in blood was also identified at BLIH. These advances produced a steady, and often dramatic, drop in both maternal and fetal mortality rates over the course of its 134 years of independent operation.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. Series I. Program Establishment, Development, and Review Records, 1873–1965.
  2. Series II. Committee Records, 1963, 1965.
  3. Series III. General Accounting Records, 1946–1964.
  4. Series IV. Building and Facilities Construction Records, 1921–1929.
  5. ___Subseries A. Construction Specifications, 1921–1929.
  6. ___Subseries B. Construction Project Drawings, 1927.
  7. Series V. Public Relations Records, 1855–1982.
  8. ___Subseries A. Photographs and Photocopies, 1855–1982.
  9. ___Subseries B. Clippings, 1917, 1981.
  10. Series VI. Hospital Publications, 1940–1966.
  11. Series VII. Special Events Records, 1961–1963.
  12. Series VIII. Memorabilia, 1921–1986.
  13. Series IX. Staff Publications, Reference Materials and Reprints, 1938–1950.

Custodial History

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) owns the records described in this finding aid. The Harvard Medical Library entered into a contract in 2001 to act as the repository for some of BWH’s archival records. Before the transfer to the Harvard Medical Library, many of the records were in storage at various locations within the BWH. In 2005, additions to the collection were assembled and transferred from a BWH storage facility at 850 Boylston Street, Boston, MA by Anne Fladger, Director of the BWH Medical Library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Boston Lying-in Hospital records were placed on deposit with the Harvard Medical Library in 2001 by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Some of the collection was transferred from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library to the Harvard Medical Library in 2005. Additional material was added as follows:

  1. Accession number 2007-036 was transferred from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library to the Harvard Medical Library in 2006 October.
  2. Accession number 2015-086 was added by donation, in 2015.


  • Irving, Frederick Carpenter, 1883–1957. Highlights in the history of the Boston Lying-In Hospital. Read at the dinner on the one hundred and eighth anniversary of the founding of the Hospital— Walter Channing Day, 24 October, 1940. Boston. N.p. 1940.
  • Irving, Frederick Carpenter, 1883–1957. Safe Deliverance. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1942.
  • Kass, Amalie M., 1928–. Midwifery and medicine in Boston: Walter Channing, M.D., 1786–1876. Boston: Northeastern University Press, c2002.
  • Channing, Walter, 1786–1876. Memoir of the late Enoch Hale, M.D., M.M.S.S., A.A.S. By Walter Channing, M.D. Boston, D. Clapp, printer, 1848.
  • Boston Lying-in Hospital. Its past, present, and future. Boston: Boston Lying-in Hospital, n.d. [1890?].
  • Jewett, John Figgis. “Sesquicentennium of the Boston Lying-in Hospital—150 trailblazing years.”Contemporary OB/GYN, 21 (May 1983):198–205, 212.

Processing Information

Gabriela Burgman created a preliminary box and folder list in 2005. Unprocessed parts of this collection and new acquisitions were processed and this finding aid was written by Catherine Pate at the Center for the History of Medicine. It was published in 2008. A revised version was published in 2016.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine started processing the archival records of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital under a service agreement with the BWH in 2001. The records, transferred in bulk from the BWH, were made up of records from all the individual hospitals that eventually merged to become the Affiliated Hospitals Center (AHC), which in turn became Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Processing staff made the decision to organize the records by their provenance, and processed and described each individual hospital’s records separately. Consequently, the original transfer yielded seven groups of records, one of which is the Boston Lying-in Hospital records.

The records for each hospital were organized into series and described based on practices used at the Harvard Medical School Archives. Processing for this collection also involved primary preservation, arrangement, and the creation of this detailed finding aid to improve access. Duplicate records and records that did not meet the archival collection goals of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library were discarded.

Boston Lying-in Hospital. Records, 1855–1986 (inclusive), 1921–1966 (bulk) : Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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