In the early 1920s, health initiatives for the impoverished Latino population on Kansas City’s west side consisted of little more than distributing a daily half-pint of milk to children in the summer vacation school and encouraging good personal health habits. At the request of the Catholic Bishop of Kansas City, Thomas Lillis, the Agnes Ward Amberg Club opened a small clinic in the basement of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe for Mexican Americans who weren’t accepted as white patients in larger clinics. Featuring a well-baby daycare center, it was staffed entirely Amberg Club volunteers until Dr. Thomas Purcell arrived as the first fulltime physician in 1927.
The early clinic operated four days a week and offered general medical care; eye, ear, nose, and throat treatment; prenatal and pediatric care; general surgery; and dentistry. The Guadalupe Center established the Child Health Center in 1928, providing daily vaccinations and immunizations, pre-natal instruction, and a well-baby station for children from birth to age 5. The Amberg Club also chose children to be sent to a fresh air camp maintained by the Catholic Women’s Club.
After two years of working with residents and other agencies, club members concluded that the main hurdle for Mexican Americans seeking access to larger clinics had not, in fact, been racial prejudice. It was language difficulties. The club began furnishing interpreters for those in need of medical care.
Dr. Thomas Draney, second from left, cares for a young patient. A pediatrician who began work in Kansas City in 1918, Draney was affiliated with four baby centers and several hospitals in addition to operating a private practice. The Guadalupe Center’s Child Health Center, he said, was “a place from which health radiated rather than a place toward which disease gravitated."
Date: circa 1930
Mothers and their young children in a clinic waiting room. By the mid-1920s, Westside parents were being encouraged to seek preventive care.
Babies receive care at the Guadalupe Center’s Child Health Center which opened in 1928. The Agnes Ward Amberg Club, which opened the Guadalupe Center, collaborated with the regional Children’s Bureau in encouraging the examination of young children. Catholic charities covered most of the expense, supplemented by Amberg Club dues and donations.
A youngster with milk and a cracker dispensed as part of local health care. Mothers were offered directions, printed in both Spanish and English, on the proper diet for children of different ages.
A woman, second from left, visits the Guadalupe Health Center next to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. The clinic opened in the early 1920s and was run by the Agnes Ward Amberg Club.
An instructional flier distributed in conjunction with the Guadalupe Center’s "garbage can campaign," part of the center’s early health initiative. None of the Mexican Americans on Kansas City's west side initially had garbage cans and used flimsy pasteboard boxes instead. The center worked to educate them on the advantages of sturdier cans while convincing the city to start picking up the trash regularly. Ultimately, a weekly collection was started. The flier laid out the city’s guidelines: "Trash receptacles must be of strong and waterproof material , with covers and equipped with handles and minimum capacity of 5 gallons and maximum of 15 … These cans should be placed in a convenient place and in view of those responsible for collecting garbage."