Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 13, Number 02, Fall, 2001 Page: 49
This periodical is part of the collection entitled: Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas and was provided to The Portal to Texas History by the Dallas Historical Society.
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A WOMAN'S VISION
Mary Shiels Hospital
BY SUZANNE BURKHEAD
O ut of the depths of the despair of widowhood
during the nation's Great Depression,
a single-minded Dallas woman
created what is now one of this country's best
small hospitals. The story of Mary Shiels Hospital
has been one of growth and success
throughout the years, as it evolved from the
upstairs of a rented building with few modern
conveniences into an up-to-date facility featuring
the latest technology. A testament to the vision of
its founder, the hospital has operated continuously
in Dallas since June I, I947. It was founded
by Mary Robbins Shiels on the premise that
highly specialized hospital care for a highly specialized
segment of medicine could be achieved in
a small hospital. She believed that the specialization
would result in personal attention and an
extremely high standard of patient care.1 A
visionary, Mary Shiels created her dream hospital,
which would become a model for excellence and
efficiency in the modern health care delivery
Throughout the years, much of the success
of the hospital can be credited to its loyal staff. In
what has now become the health care industry,
such employee longevity is rare. Perhaps because
the hospital was so much a part of Mary Shiels'
life, its employees became like a family to her. It
is the "family atmosphere" extended to the
patient that continues to set this hospital apart
from others. The success of the hospital is due in
part to a commitment to maintaining its technological
edge. However, at the heart of that success
is the philosophy of Mary Shiels herself: treat
everyone like family-employees, staff, patients,
and patients' families.2 This philosophy has been
carried on by her son and grandchildren.
Mary Estelle Robbins was born in Dallas in
1903. She grew up in Oak Cliff, the eighth of
nine children born to Elie Bradley Robbins and
Mary Emma Lee Robbins (Minnie).3 When
Mary graduated from Oak Cliff High School in
1922, she decided to take a secretarial course.4
Most working women at this time were not
While preparing herself for a companionate
marriage, the young woman in the I920S
who was not in college was likely to be
working. Between 1920 and I930 the proportion
of women in the labor force remained
stationary at about one in four ... the twenties
glamorized and enshrined the working
girl, consolidating a new ideology about the
proper public places for women .... By 1920,
30 percent of women workers were in clerical
and sales work. Clerical work-white collar,
respectable, and available primarily to white,
native-born women-provided the opportunity
for a new ideology that recognized a
period of work outside the home in many
women's lives but separated that work from
the idea of career ....5
After finishing secretarial school, she went to
work in the office of a general surgeon, Charles
H. Warren. She worked for Dr. Warren until she
was offered a better position with Dr. W. D.
Jones and Dr. J. Guy Jones (who were not
related). Her "Girl Friday" responsibilities soon
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Dallas Historical Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 13, Number 02, Fall, 2001, periodical, 2001; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35099/m1/51/: accessed September 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.