Doylestown Hospital Centennial Celebrates Founding Mothers

Pictured above: Concerned Women of Doylestown Organized in 1895 to Improve their Community. Photo Credit: Contributed.



New Hope,  PA – In honor of Doylestown Hospital’s Centennial Year, the VIA of Doylestown, in partnership with Phillips’ Mill Community Association, is proud to bring its origin story to the stage. “Voices! A History of the VIA of Doylestown,” a Phillips’ Mill Premier Showcase original play by local playwright Joy Nash, will be staged by an all-female ensemble at the Mill in four performances, July 20-23.

Opening night, Thursday July 20 at 7:30 p.m. ($75 tickets), includes a reception with refreshments after the show. Additional performances Friday July 21 and Saturday July 22 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday July 23 at 3:00 p.m. ($35 tickets). Sponsorship opportunities are available, with proceeds to benefit the VIA of Doylestown. The Historic Phillips’ Mill is located at 2619 River Road, New Hope, PA. Tickets for “Voices! A History of the VIA of Doylestown” are on sale now at

Nash, a current member of the VIA, first became interested in the story of the organization’s founding through her volunteer work at the James-Lorah Memorial Home in Doylestown Borough. Miss Sarah James, who bequeathed her home to the VIA as its headquarters in 1954, was an original VIA 1895 Charter Member.

“The VIA has preserved all its meeting minute books, starting with the very first volume from 1895,” Nash explained. “Reading through the years of meeting minutes, you can’t help but be impressed by the professionalism and compassion of these ladies. Even decades before they got the vote, they were not inclined to believe there was anything they could not accomplish. Many of the women had been personally touched by the tragedy of infant death, which was why maternity and well-baby care was a central focus of their work. Doylestown has profited immensely from the vision of public health championed by the VIA Founding Mothers, Joy Nash-Voices VIA Origin Story-July 2023 and their spirit of innovation is still going strong today. I wrote “Voices!” to bring these forgotten women to life,” Nash concluded. “I’d like everyone in our community to know their story.

Once upon a time, choking dust billowed in the unpaved streets of Doylestown, uncollected garbage festered in its alleys, and the employees of the Bucks County Courthouse saw fit to dump the liquid contents of the courtroom spittoons directly into the center of Court Street. But when a group of village ladies urged Borough Council to correct these atrocities, the town fathers declined. “Go home,” they said. “Do not trouble your heads about imagined municipal problems.”

The women did not go home. Instead, they organized for change. The year was 1895. The historic American Women’s Club Movement was well underway, with fearless women of all classes and races uniting to improve the lives of women and children in their communities. One such woman, the indomitable widow Isabella T. Watson, inspired more than thirty Doylestown ladies to form the Village Improvement Association of Doylestown.

Pictured above: The original building of the Doylestown Hospital. Photo Credit: Contributed.

After successfully tackling Doylestown’s dust and garbage, club ladies went on to provide Doylestown with its first ambulance and its first Red Cross Visiting Nurse. In 1923, the VIA founded Doylestown Hospital. To this day, the VIA remains the only secular woman’s group in the country to ever have owned and operated a community hospital.

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