Presenter Information

Kristine Ashton Gunnell Ph.D.


The Daughters of Charity were “the key provider of social service in [Los Angeles] before 1880,” opening southern California’s first hospital in 1858. They served anyone, regardless of religion and brought different religious and cultural groups together to help people who were sick. During the smallpox epidemics from the 1860s through the 1880s, the Daughters partnered with officials of Los Angeles to treat the poor. Kristine Gunnell explains how the desire to cut costs, theories of containing disease, and racial and class biases led to the city’s initially inhumane treatment of poor patients. Acting as advocates for the poor, the Daughters of Charity used political leverage to improve conditions and to give patients quality, compassionate care.