The Healer and the Pirate

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Baby with Five Hundred Mothers - 1921

Front page news.

"Baby With Five Hundred Mothers" Undergoes Successful Operation

Orville McBaine, the 10-month-old crippled baby for whom the girls of Stephens College recently subscribed more than $400, has successfully undergone the first operation necessary to straigthen his legs, and will be brought back here probably next week for treatment until it is time for another operation in St. Louis. Miss Willie T. Bryant, visiting nurse for the Charity Organization Society, who took care of the baby's mother before she died about two months ago from tuberculosis, will go to St. Louis the first of next week to get the baby.

The child is now at the St. Louis Children's Hospital under the care of a specialist, Dr. Nathaniel Allison. Three operations will be necessary to make the child's legs usable, but after that Doctor Allison promises a cure. Between the operations the baby will be brought here, where it will be given the best of care and special treatments which Dr. Allison will prescribe.

The 500 Stephens College girls, who constituted themselves the baby's mothers when they gave the money for the operation, are still thinking up things to do for their "baby." They are buying blankets, clothes of all kinds which they think he will need and toys to amuse him. Each one of them takes a personal interest in the baby, and takes it upon herself to see that the "baby with five hundred mothers" is well taken care of.

--The Columbia Evening Missourian, December 2, 1921

Good news! July 1922:

Orville McBaine, Adopted by Stephens' Girls, Is Cured.

Little Orville McBaine, the crippled baby who was last winter adopted by the girls in Stephens College, who gave him the benefit of medical treatment, is again in Columbia after several weeks in a St. Louis hospital. Orville is so much improved now that physicians say he is practically cured.

He was brought back from St. Louis by his father, Richard McBaine. He was first taken to St. Louis by Miss Willie Bryant, visiting nurse of Boone County, last fall. The girls of Stephens College made it possible for the little fellow to remain in the hospital until the present time.

--The Columbia Evening Missourian, July 29, 1921

From the Social Security Death Index it looks like he lived to be 77 and died in 1998.


  1. I wonder if he ever wrote a memoir? What kind of life he must have had if even a handful of those "500 mothers" kept in contact with him throughout his life? Did one marry his father? ;) All rhetorical questions of course, but I feel a story there.

  2. I Googled his name and really only saw the Social Security record. I agree though--I think there has got to be a story there!

  3. You aren't kidding!! Imagine if one of those girls truly stayed in touch ... perhaps when she got married, took him into her own home. And maybe she had a daughter ... or at least a second cousin, twice removed ...

  4. Isn't it fun to imagine? After I published this I looked again and it looks like he may have had a son, so could be :)