An Enduring Bold Vision

by Joy Howard

The Boston Lying-In Hospital

Benefiting from visionary department chairs who trained under and succeeded Kenneth J. Ryan, MD—Robert Barbieri, MD, and Nawal Nour, MD, MPH—as well as generations of compassionate physicians, surgeons, nurses, residents, fellows, and support staff, the Brigham has an enduring legacy of high-quality reproductive care, education, training, and research. 

Many standards of care in OB-GYN were first forged at the Brigham and two of its predecessors, the Boston Lying-In and the Boston Hospital for Women, including anesthesia during childbirth, hand-washing and rubber gloves to prevent infection, heated bassinets for premature infants, prenatal clinics, the first clinical trials of oral contraceptives, cardiovascular care during pregnancy, and preventive medicine for newborns. These advances helped steadily and dramatically reduce infant and maternal mortality nationwide over the past nearly 200 years. 

The Brigham’s OB-GYN department consistently ranks in the top five in the nation for its specialty in the U.S. News and World Report’s annual Honor Roll of Best Hospitals. In July 2022, one month after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Brigham’s OB-GYN department received the No. 1 ranking from the publication. 

Evolution of Brigham and Women’s Hospital 

  • 1832: The Boston Lying-in Hospital, one of the nation’s first maternity hospitals, opens its doors to women unable to afford in-home medical care.
  • 1875: The Free Hospital for Women is founded “for poor women affected with diseases peculiar to their sex or in need of surgical aid.” Each of five beds is sponsored by a different charitable group. The Free Hospital for Women also featured Boston’s first cancer ward.
  • 1913: The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital opens “for the care of sick persons in indigent circumstances,” with a bequest from restaurateur and real estate baron Peter Bent Brigham.
  • 1914: The Robert Breck Brigham Hospital, founded with a bequest from Peter Bent Brigham’s nephew, opens to serve patients with arthritis and other debilitating joint diseases.
  • 1966: The Boston Hospital for Women is established through a merger of the Boston Lying-in Hospital and the Free Hospital for Women.
  • 1980:  Brigham and Women’s Hospital welcomes patients to a new, state-of-the-art facility six years after the formal affiliation of three distinguished predecessors, the Boston Hospital for Women, the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, and the Robert Breck Brigham Hospital.