The Bradley Family

Mary Cornelia Bradley Society

The Bradley Family

About the Donor Society

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Mary Cornelia Bradley and her Grandfather

It is only appropriate to have Mary Cornelia Bradley and her father serve as the inspiration and identification for The Mary Cornelia Bradley Donor Society and the Harold Cornelius Bradley Physician Circle, which proudly present the mainstay of private support for American Family Children's Hospital.

The Bradleys

More than a century ago, Dr. Harold Cornelius Bradley came to Madison as a junior professor of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin. The first appointee to the UW Medical School, Dr. Bradley soon met, fell in love with and married a student, Mary Josephine Crane of the renowned Chicago industrialist Crane family.

In May 1909, the couple’s first child, Mary Cornelia Bradley was born. This little girl’s legacy would forever change the course of pediatric health care in Wisconsin.

Young Mary was only 6 when she was stricken with measles. In January 1916, shortly before her 7th birthday, Mary Cornelia Bradley died of meningitis. Deeply heartbroken by the loss of their firstborn child, the Bradleys yearned for a meaningful remembrance of their little daughter. As a loving tribute to Mary, they aspired to build a research and teaching hospital in connection with the UW Medical School.

The First Children's Hospital in MadisonMary Cornelia Bradley Donor Society

The Bradleys raised $75,000 of the $93,000 needed to realize their dream, and by 1920, would witness the opening of the first children's hospital in Madison. Located at 1225 Linden Drive on campus, the facility would be named the Mary Cornelia Bradley Hospital for the Study of Children’s Diseases. (The building still remains and currently houses two UW-Madison departments.) The tragedy of Mary's short life, which forever changed the lives of the Bradley family, was transformed into a source of tremendous hope for countless children to follow in Mary's tiny footsteps.

By 1930, a new hospital for children was erected to combat the growing polio epidemic. Located one block west of the Bradley Hospital, the Wisconsin Orthopedic Hospital significantly expanded the UW's pediatric bed capacity. Over the next 27 years, care for hospitalized children would be divided among three locations* until 1957, when everything was consolidated into the Orthopedic Hospital—then renamed the University of Wisconsin Children's Hospital.

The 1970s brought with it construction of the massive Clinical Science Center on the far west end of the Campus. When it opened in early 1979, it provided a brand new location for both UW Hospital and Clinics (its current home) and the UW Children's Hospital.

State-of-the-Art Care Founded on Compassion

With the passing of another generation, a critical need emerged for a new kind of children's hospital in Madison—one that offers the kind of amenities, spacious rooms and loving care that families so desperately deserve when caring for a hospitalized child.

Launched by a tremendous lead gift from American Family Insurance, the state-of-the-art American Family Children's Hospital opened its doors in August 2007. Children are especially comforted by this bright, colorful hospital that offers world-class, family-centered care.

More than 90 years after the Bradleys' gift established Madison's first children's hospital, monumental changes have transpired in the way hospitalized children are loved, cared for and respected. What remains constant however, is the UW's preeminent role at the forefront of discovery for treating and curing children of many complex diseases.

Today, American Family Children's Hospital has a strong foundation rooted in the four-fold mission of service, scholarship, science and social responsibility. And, it all began when tragedy was turned to hope through a family's loving and generous remembrance of their daughter whose life was taken far too soon.

*The three locations were the Mary Cornelia Bradley Hospital for the Study of Children's Diseases, Wisconsin Orthopedic Hospital and the original University Hospital at 1300 University Avenue.