The almshouses were the last refuge for the poor — treatment of the poor followed a typically urban response to public, health, isolation, sanitation and direct involvement of the local physician. The attending physician received payments from the town as did midwives and nurses.
Amalie Kass, a distinguished historian, educator, and philanthropist has, through her research, helped us learn more about the development of Boston’s medical professional in the first half of the nineteenth-century, particularly in the field of obstetrics. Kass’s book Midwifery and Medicine in Boston: Walter Channing, MD tells of the transition from midwives to obstetrician during this time period. In 1832, Channing helped found the Boston Lying-in Hospital for Destitute Women.
We learned from Amalie Kass’s article “A Brief History of the Channing Laboratory” that Harriet Ryan, in response to the growing need for the treatment of consumption (tuberculosis), set up the Channing Street Home for Sick and Destitute Women in 1857.
In 1865 Boston City Hospital was founded with the primary objective of providing medical treatment for the “worthy poor”.
This is the complete text of the Act of Incorporationof 1801 for the Boston Dispensary, which was actually started in 1796 byprominent Bostonians. The Dispensary provided outpatient medical care andmedicines free to the poor. The managers of the dispensary appointed physicians, surgeons, and apothecary; patients were recommended by the contributors, who were allowed to send two patients at a time to the dispensary if they paid a $5 annual subscription.
In addition to the original document with the complete text of the Act of Incorporation of 1801 for the Boston Dispensary, this document lists the managers,visiting physicians, apothecaries, and subscribers as of October 1807.