In 1905, a 25-year-old nurse named Alta Alice Miner Bates (1879-1955) founded an eight-bed hospital for women and infants in Berkeley, Calif. As the first graduate of the Eureka (Calif.) Training School for Nurses, she also was the first RN in Humboldt County and the first woman in the San Francisco Bay Area to become a nurse anesthetist.
She was a visionary who began caring for patients in her parents home, as there was no hospital at the time in the community, said Carolyn Kemp, director of public relations for Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. Local [physicians] were so impressed with her work in maternal health that they encouraged her to open her own hospital and helped her to secure donations for funding.
Bates served as president of the hospitals nonprofit board of directors and managed the hospital until her retirement in 1949. Elena Griffing, 85, who worked with Bates, remembers her as a hands-on administrator.
She made hospital rounds every day in her crisp white uniform and blue cape, Griffing said. I remember being impressed at how she knew the names of every patient and staff member in the hospital, and she always emphasized that patient care was our first priority.
Patients often were surprised to meet the hospitals founder face to face. Kemp remembers hearing of how Bates introduced herself to one patient only to have him roll his eyes. Youre Alta Bates? Sure you are, and Im Sather Gate, he replied referring to the iconic gated entry and landmark on the UC Berkeley campus.
In a day and age when women had not yet gained the right to vote, Bates made her mark.
She was a single woman who went on to adopt two children and to grow Alta Bates into one of the areas largest and most respected hospitals, Kemp said.
Bates also began running a training school for nurses out of her home and graduated her first class of students in 1906. She continued the school as a part of the hospital until 1934. Linda Childers