"The Hospital was just like a Home" : Self, Service and the 'McCord Hospital Family'

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Seminar Date
November 9, 2011
In earlier work on McCord Hospital (MH) we have charted this American Board Mission urban hospital’s establishment, expansion, and its strategies and struggles for survival from inception in 1909 through the decades of segregation and apartheid. We have also explored the links between MH and the emerging black middle classes and leading figures in South Africa’s political and medical establishments. Here, we consider how the notion of ‘the McCord Family’- an identity claimed and shared by its nurses, doctors, patients and many others - was constructed and experienced. In part, this paper is prompted by a review of the recent study of Groote Schuur Hospital which described the ongoing and shared allegiance to the hospital on the part of many who were on its staff, whether cleaners, porters, nurses, or specialist doctors. 2 In the research for the MH project, similarly, documentary sources and interviewees frequently invoked the image of a ‘McCord Family’, citing this as an important motivation for working at the hospital or being a patient there. The ‘McCord Family’ also extended to people at a far geographical remove from Durban. Central to this notion of ‘the McCord Family’ was Christianity, especially Congregationalism, but increasingly after World War 2, so would be a wider and shared sense of a religious or spiritual mission and ‘service’.
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