Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Michael Reese Hospital — Neighborhoods and patients

Excerpts from the book All Our Lives: A Centennial History of Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center, 1881-1981, Sarah Gordon, ed.

Streets on the West Side provided a sharp contrast to the quiet neighborhood around the hospital. The “Jewish Ghetto,” which extended from Blue Island Avenue to Canal Street, and from Taylor Street to 14th Place, was a haven for immigrants with little money. Outdoor markets and street scenes reminiscent of Europe characterized this intense but impoverished section of Chicago. This is Jefferson Street as it appeared around the turn of the century.
(Reform Advocate/Darcie Cohen Fohrman)

Many West Side residents found their first jobs in the sweatshops, notorious for their exploitation of unskilled laborers to produce goods at the lowest cost possible. Degraded surroundings, low pay, long hours, and the lack of any contract for employees were typical of this system. (Reform Advocate/Darcie Cohen Fohrman)
Sweated labor (Reform Advocate/Darcie Cohen Fohrman)

Sunday visitors waiting on the hospital steps in the 1880s. The rules for visitors advised that “Patients shall be allowed to receive visits from friends between the hours of 2 and 4 o’clock pm on visiting days only. Visiting days are Sundays and Wednesdays of each week. Nurses will see that visits comply with this regulation.”

West side dispensary
The view inside the West Side Dispensary, about 1903: the waiting area, outpatient surgery, and the eye, ear, and throat clinic. Most of the doctors were from Michael Reese Hospital, and the majority of patients were recently arrived Russian immigrants.
(Reform Advocate/Darcie Cohen Fohrman)
West Side Dispensary
The West Side Dispensary: outpatient surgery

Streetcars were a common sight along major arteries of the South Side after the turn of the century. In this 1903 photo taken on Cottage Grove Avenue, a horse team comes to the rescue of a disabled streetcar. The advertisement for an auto show strikes a note of historical irony. (Chicago Historical Society)
Cottage Grove
Another view of Cottage Grove Avenue shows the advertising that lined the streetcar route. The people waiting appear to be recent immigrants, still wearing the dark colors and shawls characteristic of the European poor. (Chicago Historical Society)

Related articles

Michael Reese Hospital – Beginnings
Michael Reese Hospital – Nurses, interns, and residents
Michael Reese Hospital – Physicians
Michael Reese Hospital – Pediatrics
Michael Reese Archive: Comments from our readers

Fall 2013



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