Mighty Blog

100 years of caring for kids

A collage of different photos from the last 100 years at Children's Minnesota

From the archives: Children's Minnesota in the 1930s

The history of Children’s Minnesota is much more than buildings, names and dates. Who were the people behind the facts? What were their struggles and triumphs? 

In honor of our 100th anniversary, every month in 2024 we’ll share some compelling stories from the Children’s Minnesota archives. Each month will feature a different decade.  

Here, we continue with the 1930s, which saw the near closing of the St. Paul hospital, a heartfelt pledge to help from nurses, and a letter of gratitude from the parents of “baby Ruth.”

Jump back in time and read about Children’s Minnesota in the 1920s here.

The 1930s 

By 1930, the Children’s Hospital had moved from its temporary home (below left) to a brand new brick hospital (below right) a few blocks away. The new hospital was built and designed just for children and still stands as an apartment building, directly across 35E from our current St. Paul hospital.  

Just a year after the new hospital opened in 1928, the United States was hit with the worst economic crisis in its history, the Great Depression. By the early 30s, Children’s Hospital was struggling. Materials from our archives show 1933 was an especially rough year. 

an early 1900s house with a sign above the front door that says, "Children's Hospital Inc."
A large brick building sits on top of a hill. To the right are two1930s model cars.

In the red

The many red numbers in our 1933 annual report reflect a tough reality. Patient numbers were down almost across the board. The hospital was taking extreme measures to stay afloat: cutting staff salaries, closing floors and shutting down its nursing school. 

1933 Annual Report
1933 Children’s Hospital annual report

Nurses pledge to help 

Nurses knew the hospital was in dire straits. Seven of them signed a letter pledging to do whatever it would take to keep the doors open. 

Nurses outside with patients
Children’s Hospital nurses and patients circa 1930.

The signed letter

March 18, 1933 

To the Members of the Board of Trustees of the Children’s Hospital: 

We the members of the nursing staff have been informed that our present superintendent has resigned and that there is a question as to whether or not the hospital is to continue in operation. 

We, the undersigned, wish to inform you that we are ready and willing to co-operate with you in any way that you may suggest to help keep our hospital open.  

Assuring you of our best intentions and continued faithful service we are, 

Respectfully yours, 

Ruth Ohlsen
Mildred Dahlquist
Mercy Gordon
Edith Thornquist
Gladys LeHew
Inga Flaa
Eleanor Newman 

A loyal friend is born

Children's Hospital Association members visit a boy, circa 1930s.
Children's Hospital Association members visit a boy, circa 1930s.

The hospital managed to hang on and by the end of 1934 its financial picture was improving, thanks in part to the formation of the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA).  

The CHA, comprised of St. Paul Junior League members, raised funds to make hospital care available to poor families during the Depression. Ninety years later, the CHA is still a loyal and dedicated supporter of Children’s Minnesota. 

“Words cannot express our gratitude…” 

One family that may have benefitted from CHA funds was the Minnesota family that sent this heartfelt thank you to Children’s Hospital for their daughter’s care there during the 1930s. 

Dear Miss Davis: 

…I want to thank you and all of those who are spending their time and money that the lives of poor people’s children can be saved. I want to thank them for accepting the expense of (our baby’s) operation and the wonderful care she was given. She was just 2 ½ months old when she was operated on for a tumor on her throat. She has gained much faster since it was removed and is now strong and healthy. Words cannot express our gratitude to you all. If all people were like you, striving to save the lives of little children and make them well and happy, there would be no war and crime in this world today. 

We would like to help when we are able that some other little child can get the care when he needs it. We also wondered if you would take vegetables and potatoes whenever we have a surplus of those and can deliver them, we would be glad to do so. We hope someday to prove ourselves worthy of your generosity. Thank you again, 


Respectfully yours, 

(Names removed to protect patient health information.)

Stay tuned to our From the Archives blogs! Next month we’ll feature the 1940s including the effects of World War II and murmurs of a children’s hospital in Minneapolis. 

Celebrating a century of care: Children’s Minnesota turns 100

Children’s Minnesota has been here for 100 years. And it’s all because of you: the people who bring your kids here, the ones who work here, the partners who refer their young patients for specialty treatment, the donors who support us, and the community who rallies around the families in our hospitals. Join us in celebrating a century of care — and a bright, healthy future for Minnesota kids. 

Julianna Olsen