While the Gilded Age is dominated by figures such as Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Vanderbilt, their wives and daughters often lived behind closed curtains, staying well out of public view everywhere but the society pages.
Standard Oil heiress Kate Macy Ladd seems, on the surface, to have followed in this tradition. But a deeper look at her life reveals a woman who was fiercely committed to the welfare of ordinary people, and who ultimately became a medical philanthropist with her creation of the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.
Spanning two centuries and based on her bare bones memoir as well as family diaries, letters and reminiscences, Finding Kate: The Unlikely Journey of 20th Century Health Care Advocate Kate Macy Ladd reveals one woman’s life of faith, charity, and resilience.
Born in New York City in 1863, Kate Everit Macy Ladd was raised in a loving Quaker family that exemplified the virtue of philanthropy. As a woman who faced many challenges, including frequent bouts of poor health and treatment by doctors who preferred to keep wealthy women under their care even when unnecessary, she ultimately devoted her time, energy, and wealth to improving the lives of others.
From a young age, Kate was attracted to the concept of convalescence through her family’s involvement with hospitals in New York. This led her to create Maple Cottage, a free convalescent home for women on the grounds of Natirar her 1000-acre estate in New Jersey’s storied Somerset Hills. Maple Cottage was the precursor to a large, state-of-the-art convalescent facility for women established in her mansion house after her death. Known as The Kate Macy Ladd Convalescent Home, the facility welcomed thousands of women who received unparalleled health care without charge for more than three decades.
Kate Macy Ladd’s legacy remains in force today with the continued vitality of the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation which has funded hundreds of medical research investigations since its inception. The organization is well-known for its commitment to improving the education of healthcare professionals.
Despite Kate’s tremendous capacity for generosity and her many unique contributions to society, her story has long lingered in the shadows. In Finding Kate her compelling journey is at last revealed.