Smith, May Forster (1874–1938)

By: Michael V. Hazel

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

May Forster Smith, nurse, the daughter of Alexis John and Mary Catherine (Fuller) Smith, was born in Mountville, South Carolina, on May 25, 1874. She received her nursing degree from Cooper Hospital in Philadelphia and moved to Dallas, Texas, about 1907. In March 1913 she and six other nurses decided to establish a "Baby Camp" in order to care for sick infants from indigent families. The American Red Cross provided four tents, set up on the grounds of the county hospital, Parkland, at the corner of Maple and Oak Lawn avenues. During the summer of 1913 the nurses, aided by the first local pediatrician, Dr. Hugh Leslie Moore, and by Dr. J. W. Embree, tended numerous babies and saved the lives of three premature infants.

The success of the camp persuaded the city to erect a permanent frame cottage at the site, which opened in May 1914. By 1917 May Smith was the camp's head nurse. In June 1922 the cottage was moved across Oak Lawn to a separate lot and refurbished. In 1929 Tom L. Bradford, Sr., whose wife and daughter Smith had once nursed, donated $100,000 to build a new hospital in honor of his wife and daughter at the corner of Maple Avenue and Turtle Creek Boulevard. The new Bradford Memorial Hospital for Babies, designed with Smith's advice by Dallas architect James B. Cheek, opened on January 1, 1930. At least two babies, deserted by their families, lived at the hospital and were cared for by Smith and her staff for several years. Despite racial segregation in Dallas, Smith and the Bradford's board of directors saw that black and Hispanic children were treated at the hospital. May Smith served as director of Bradford Hospital until her death from pneumonia on January 31, 1938. She was originally buried at Grove Hill Cemetery but was moved in 1939 to Hillcrest Cemetery in North Dallas. She had been a member of the Baptist church of St. Laurence, South Carolina, and of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. She was a charter member and president of the Texas Graduate Nurses' Association and served as president of the Dallas Hospital Council. In 1948 the board of directors of Bradford Hospital voted to join the boards of two other children's health facilities to form Children's Medical Center of Dallas. The third floor of the present Children's Medical Center building is designated the Bradford Memorial Hospital for Babies.

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Dallas Morning News, February 1, 1938. Michael V. Hazel, "May Smith and the Dallas Baby Camp," Heritage News 10 (summer 1985).
  • Health and Medicine
  • Nurses and Nurse Administrators
  • Women
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Michael V. Hazel, “Smith, May Forster,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995

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