Mar 28, 2024 - History

Women's History Month: A lasting legacy of service

A historical photo of Catherine Nelson Black reading to a young boy.

Catherine Nelson Black, seen here reading to a young boy, founded many lasting Columbus institutions. Photos: Courtesy of LifeCare Alliance

A local nursing group founded in 1898 to serve poor families and immigrants is still active as a major nonprofit more than 125 years later.

Flashback: Catherine "Carrie" Nelson Black, whose husband Samuel was Columbus' mayor at the time, founded the Instructive District Nursing Association (IDNA) to "take care of the people who nobody else paid any attention to."

  • Nurses went door-to-door helping residents in an era with poor sanitation and a lack of public health resources.

Years later, IDNA superintendent Jane Tuttle led relief efforts after a 1913 flood devastated the area of Franklinton.

  • She also oversaw the city's "Baby Camp," an early form of day care that worked to lower the local infant mortality rate.
  • Meanwhile, Black also founded the free Columbus Cancer Clinic, which still provides cancer support services.

The intrigue: IDNA went on to add many other programs throughout the 20th century, including making Columbus one of the first cities to deliver meals to elderly residents in a service now known as Meals-on-Wheels..

Today, LifeCare Alliance boasts thousands of active volunteers who offer meals, health care, pet care and other services.

  • Carrie's Cafe, a donation-based dining center on Harmon Avenue for seniors, is named in the founder's honor.

Worthy of your time: WOSU's short documentary on the LifeCare Alliance history.

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