Since 1846, women in Weber County, Utah have been impacting the local community through a variety of ways.
The women have worked against and broken barriers to achieve their goals to the betterment of the area. Women in Ogden have worked in politics, health care, business, and education to change the system not only for themselves but for those around them. Starting in 1870, in Utah, women were given the right to vote, and therefore, a voice in their communities. These are the stories of two women who have taken that fundamental right and used it for progress.
On December 18, 1894, grief tore through the Dee household with the death of the oldest son of Thomas D. Dee and Annie Taylor Dee. Just shy of his twenty-first birthday, Reese Dee died on the family’s dining room table from appendicitis. As Maude, the oldest daughter of Thomas and Annie, wrote in her memoirs, “Reese’s operation was very amateurish, almost a practicing affair done at home with the dining room table spread out as an operating table. The tools or instruments were sterilized in a wash boiler. On the dining room table under a dim light, some kind of operation was made which resulted in death within the next twenty-four hours.” The untimely death left a lasting impression on Annie and Maude. That grief was compounded ten years later, when Thomas D. Dee died from pneumonia after falling into the Ogden River.
At this time, there was no general hospital in Ogden. Union Pacific operated a small hospital on 28th Street between Madison and Monroe but it was only available for their employees. All other sick people were cared for in their own homes by local physicians. After the death of Thomas and Reese, Annie and her children decided to do something constructive to better care for the sick. The family decided to build a hospital. Construction on the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital began in July 1910 and was completed by the end of the year. As Maude wrote, “This was a field entirely outside our knowledge or experience, but we made up for that in our sincerity of purpose.” During the first year, 895 patients were seen, which included 481 operations and five births. Annie Dee personally paid the bills for all births during the first few years to encourage delivery in the hospital. This was both for the safety of mother and child and so that student nurses might be trained. Annie often took money out of her savings to help cover the hospital expenses. The family didn’t want to see the hospital fail, as it provided medical care for people in Weber County.
Annie Dee and Maude Dee Porter were very active in the community of Ogden from the very beginning. Annie was an early member of the Child Culture Club and an organizing member of the Martha Society (now the Junior League of Ogden). During the first World War, Annie was appointed by Governor Mabey as a member of the Council of Defense. Maude followed in her mother’s footsteps by being an active member of the Martha Society and Ladies Literary Club. Maude, during World War II, spearheaded the Red Cross Canteen down at the Union Station. This little brown hut served coffee, tea, sandwiches and baked goods to over one million servicemen from across the globe. Maude gathered the local women to serve down at the Canteen, and it only closed on the day of the funeral of Maude’s husband, Richard Porter, in December 1945. Maude continued the hospital work of her mother, serving on the board for most of her life and giving funds to create the Richard Porter out-patient clinic. The legacy of the Dee women lives on today in generations that have followed.