Sutter Health History
Trio of Women Left a Lasting Heritage of Health
One overcame gender bias in the nineteenth century medical community. Another would start her career with nothing more than a few dollars and unwavering determination. Still another was a prominent community member with a dream of a healthier community.
In a day and age when women had not yet even gained the right to vote, Charlotte Amanda Blake Brown, Alta Alice Miner Bates and Elizabeth Mills Reid founded a trio of health care institutions that would gain considerable prominence in the 20th Century.
Brown wanted fiercely to become a physician, and she broke the traditional bounds of her day by leaving family in Napa and traveling east to earn a medical degree. Lacking the acceptance of her male physician counterparts upon returning to Northern California, Brown joined forces with other prominent San Francisco women in 1875 to establish a hospital for women and operated by women. Today, that facility now serves as the California campus of California Pacific Medical Center.
Across the bay, a community-minded nurse named Alta Bates would have a similar impact on the east bay community of Berkeley. In 1905, armed with only about one hundred dollars, a building design from her father and credit from local merchants, she founded the eight-bed Alta Bates Sanitorium for women and children. Today, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center includes not only the second of two hospital sites founded by this tireless professional and community leader, but another location originally known as Herrick Hospital.
To the south, Reid, a prominent Millbrae community member, dreamed of a better day for health care in her community. Largely through Reid's efforts, Mills Hospital opened in 1908 as a six-bed facility. By the 1990s, the hospital had grown to many times its original size and was joined by a second acute care facility known as Peninsula Hospital. Today the facilites are known as Mills-Peninsula Health Services.
Sutter Health owes much to Brown, Bates and Reid, as well as to the other women and men who selflessly dedicated themselves to serving their communities. Their courage and conviction helped build the foundation of one of Northern California's finest health care systems.