125 Years of Salvation Army History in Central Virginia; Home & Hospital - A Look Back
In 1884, The Salvation Army established homes in London, England, under the leadership of Mrs. Bramwell Booth, the daughter-in-law of The Salvation Army's founder, William Booth. These homes were intended for destitute women, and young expectant mothers.
When these homes made it to America, the Army realized that pregnant women needed different care and in 1887, the Army opened its first maternity style Home and Hospital in Brooklyn, NY.
In early January 1923, The Salvation Army in Central Virginia, with assistance and guidance from the Interdenominational Welfare League, opened the Evangeline Booth Home and Hospital at 2701 Fifth Avenue in Highland Park.
This home and hospital was the brainchild of the Interdenominational Welfare League, consisting of representatives from 25 area churches. In 1920, these representatives were tasked with establishing a home for pregnant and unwed women and girls in the Richmond area.
For the next few years, these individuals studied various Salvation Army homes in the Northeast in an effort to combat the fears and impressions of many Richmonders, that, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch article dated January 7, 1923, "a home of this kind would be a menace to society, encouraging viciousness and immortality."
This same article states that the individuals this home would serve would be those, "who have for any reason become misfits in the social structure of life, thereby disqualifying them for entrance into other places."
When these studies were complete, the Interdenominational Welfare League decided that they should throw their efforts behind The Salvation Army in Richmond, and that a partnership together could lead to the opening of a home and hospital in Central Virginia.
In June 1922, representatives from The Salvation Army, the Interdenominational Welfare League and the Russell Sage Foundation met with Governor Elbert Lee Trinkle at the Governor's Mansion and the process to bring a home and hospital to Richmond was well under way.
A few months later, the Evangeline Booth Home and Hospital opened its doors with a "Donation Day" and dozens of local merchants presented The Salvation Army with donations of money and goods.
Colonel Margaret Boville, The Salvation Army Eastern United States Social Services Director, attended the "Donation Day" and stated, "you have laid the foundation for a work which will mean great things for your city."
This Home and Hospital, under the direction of a Salvation Army officer and an approved medical staff, provided medical care, counseling and spiritual guidance for unwed mothers and pregnant teenage girls who sought assistance.
The medical staff consisted of obstetricians, pediatricians and various other medical doctors with a wide array of specialties.
While many of the Home and Hospital's residents' families aided financially in their stay, no female was denied admittance because of an inability to meet such costs.
As demand grew in the late 1940's, an expansion became inevitable as the capacity of the Home and Hospital was deemed inadequate by Salvation Army staff, and in December 1952, an expansion of the facility was completed. This new addition included 30 beds, a laboratory and delivery room equipment.
In the 1950's, The Salvation Army operated 34 maternity homes nationwide and the Richmond home was widely considered by Salvation Army officials to be one of the best.
During that time, the median age of an Evangeline Booth Home and Hospital resident was 18, with some as young as 14 and as old as 34, and many of the children born, around 75%, would be placed with an adoption agency upon discharge.
The Salvation Army did not place children for adoption, but would assist in referring the mother to a licensed adoption agency, should that be the mother's personal wish.
In 1968, the delivery and nursery departments at the Evangeline Booth Home and Hospital were closed, but the home continued to operate as a maternity care home until 1973, when a shift in society's views surrounding unwed mothers and numerous other factors caused the home to close its doors and its services were consolidated with the Home and Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.
During the course of its 50 years in operation, the Evangeline Booth Home and Hospital served an estimated 3,294 women from throughout Virginia and West Virginia.
The Salvation Army internationally still operates 41 homes for women and babies.