Though tattered and frail, the two books found in an Annapolis atticnearly 20 years ago record the history of Anne Arundel Medical Center and the unique role women played in creating it.
"It is not often that we get the records that document the existence of a private organization," said Gregory A. Stiverson, the assistant Maryland state archivist.
The volumes that former hospital board chairman John Birch discovered while cleaning his home contain the original minutes taken by the first board of directors of what was then called Annapolis Emergency Hospital, founded 90 years ago today.
The minutes cover the first 15 years the hospital was open.
"The most interesting part is the almost exclusive involvement of women," Stiverson said. "I think that was known, but not generally appreciated. This was a hospital created by women."
It was in 1902 that a group of 10 women, concerned that Annapolis had no hospital to call its own, got together with Mayor Charles Dubois and converted a farm house on Franklin Road into an11-bed hospital, affectionately called "The Cottage."
Women nurses ran the hospital until the 1940s, when Birch, who since has died, took over as the first chairman of the board of directors.
Today, the hospital has expanded to 303 beds at its original downtown site and has numerous other buildings, including a Medical Park on Jennifer Road and various diagnostic centers around the county. And in 1994, the hospital will open a modern women's hospital at Medical Park, which will expand surgery and birthing units.
At yesterday's 90th anniversary party, the board of trustees named the women's center in honor of Rebecca M. Clatanoff, who has worked with the hospital for more than 40 years and chaired a fund-raising drive in 1949 that raised nearly $600,000.
The medical center, a non-profit organization, has survived on contributions, as it quickly outgrew "The Cottage."
The first patient, a stone-cutter named J. D. Bowers, was admitted fourdays after the doors opened on July 14, 1902. That same year, John Fisher -- whose ailment was not documented -- stayed in the hospital for 13 days at a cost of $8.75.
In 1910, the hospital spent $55,000and expanded to 30 rooms. That included electricity, indoor plumbingand an elevator. Expansion continued through the next several decades and included a cardiac care unit in 1966. In 1976, the medical center became the first non-university associated hospital to have a CAT Scan.
Now, nearly 100 years since its inception, hospital officials still are looking for history. Daniel W. McNew, current president of the board of directors, urged people attending yesterday's birthdayreception to search for old records.
"Probably somewhere in your attic or basement, you might find a document or a photograph that we'd love to have," he said, adding that they would be included in a history book that will be updated for the hospital's centennial celebration.