Our History

The Origin of St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s Center’s rich history dates back to 1874, when an abandoned baby left on the doorstep of a Boston church eventually led to the creation of St. Mary’s Infant Asylum at the agency’s current Dorchester location. By 1902, St. Mary’s was providing shelter and care to about 1,000 infants and unwed mothers who at that time were likely to be cast out of their homes with nowhere to turn.

For more than a century, St. Margaret’s Hospital for Women shared the Dorchester campus with St. Mary’s until 1993 when the hospital closed and the current-day St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children was established.

A Journey Through Time

1870: An infant is left on the steps of St. James’ Church in Boston’s South End and is taken in by the Daughters of Charity at Carney Hospital, then located in South Boston. St. Ann’s Ward is established at the hospital, to provide shelter, comfort, and care for other abandoned babies.

St. Mary’s Infant Asylum

1874: Four years later, St. Ann’s Ward at Carney Hospital has already cared for more than 1,500 infants and 300 unwed mothers. With the growing demand for services for women and children, St. Mary’s Infant Asylum and Lying-In Hospital is established in a mansion on Bowdoin Street in Dorchester.

1894: Following an outpouring of compassion and generosity from the community, St. Mary’s purchases the Green estate on Jones Hill in Dorchester and moves operations to St. Mary’s current location near Uphams Corner.

1902: By this year, more than 1,000 infants and unwed mothers call St. Mary’s home. The babies have been abandoned or abused, and at that time, the young mothers were likely to have been cast out of their homes with nowhere else to turn.

1929: As the demand for services becomes greater, St. Mary’s expands into a general hospital, incorporating itself as St. Margaret’s Hospital. Medical facilities are added onto the original building and a nurse-training program is established.

St. Margaret’s Hospital dormitory.

1943: As the hospital continues to expand, the facility can no longer accommodate the hundreds of orphaned children at St. Mary’s Infant Asylum. As a result, children are moved to boarding homes, leaving only infants on the St. Margaret’s Hospital campus.

1993: All operations of St.Margaret’s Hospital are moved from Dorchester to the Women’s Health Pavilion at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton. St. Mary’s is an established campus. St. Mary’s continues the legacy first established by the Daughters of Charity at St. Ann’s Ward in 1870, welcoming pregnant and parenting teen girls and their infants, and providing them with shelter, comfort, and care.

Today: St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children offers seven results-oriented programs Crossroads Family Center, Margaret’s House, Mass Maternity First Home, St. Mary’s Home, Women@Work and Women’s Learning Center. All programs equip women and children with the emotional, educational, and employment skills to help them break the cycle of generational poverty and to realize bright futures for themselves and their families.

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