Charity had a bad reputation in the late 1800s, the time of The Floating Hospital’s launch. As noted in the hospital’s 1896 annual report, charities that offered free necessities and services to impoverished people were often accused of fostering “pauperism.”
In that report, the hospital’s president Walter Stanton wrote, “The sick children we care for are not impostors or even paupers; they are not old enough.” By aiding children born into poverty, the Floating Hospital bypassed the public concerns about charities that vilified the poor. Far from encouraging poverty, free healthcare would “make the sick children of today the healthy and strong men and women of tomorrow” who would be capable of supporting themselves.
In 1914, the Floating Hospital used the relatively new technology of motion pictures to show viewers what life was like in the tenement districts where patients lived. After seeing it, one journalist mused, “There is no longer any excuse for half the world remaining in ignorance of how the other half lives.”
Throughout our history, we have worked to educate New Yorkers about the hardships many of their neighbors face, explaining the importance of free healthcare for those in need and how donations make our work possible. Though we are no longer at sea, we still depend on generosity to stay afloat.