Women’s Work:
1,400 Volunteers Bring a Children’s Hospital to Life

Fifty years ago a group of civic-minded women believed so strongly that children should have a special hospital, they rallied the community and raised the money to bring it to life.

For many long-time locals, Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters is still referred to simply as "King's Daughters," a fitting tribute to those amazing women who founded the hospital and still support it today through fund-raising, volunteerism and advocacy. A story in The Virginian-Pilot reported on the hospital’s dedication ceremony, which took place on a glorious spring day in 1961:

“From its tiny drinking fountains and Lilliputian furnishings to its vast medical service, (the hospital) shows the influence of the 1,400 women who have taken a passionate interest in every detail.”

Most of the women were mothers, the article went on to say, and made up the 50 circles of the Norfolk City Union of The King’s Daughters – circles with such quaint names as Daisy Chain, In-As-Much, Speak Kindly, and Sunshine. But there was nothing quaint about what they accomplished.

Bruce Forsberg and Eleanor “Sugar” Bradshaw were among the hundreds of King’s Daughters who raised the money and support to build Virginia’s only freestanding children's hospital.

“My mother worked so hard to get the hospital opened,” Forsberg says. “It was something I grew up with.” Her great aunt, Margaret Roper Moss, founded the Norfolk City Union in 1896; her grandmother and mother were both circle members who worked with The King’s Daughters’ outpatient Children’s Clinic, the hospital’s predecessor.

“Most of those women had never held a job in their lives,” Bradshaw remembers, “but they went out and raised all that money. Their faith was unbelievable and the community responded. And it has continued to respond over all these years.”

What started from a single 88-bed hospital founded by volunteers has become the heart of comprehensive pediatric health-care system, a vital community resource with more than 3,100 employees and outpatient health centers serving every corner of the region.

“It was a miracle that we could get it going,” Forsberg says. “And just look at it now."