Women’s History Month 2024: Honoring AMC’s Female Founder, Ellin Prince Speyer


Ellin Prince Speyer in 1906

Women’s History Month is celebrated annually in March to highlight the contributions of women throughout history and their impact on contemporary society. There is perhaps no more important woman to the Schwarzman Animal Medical Center than Ellin Prince Speyer, AMC’s founder. I’ll discuss her accomplishments and those of other influential women in AMC’s history in today’s blogpost.

A Short History of the Animal Medical Center

Ellin Prince Speyer and the New York Women's League for Animals in 1914
Ellin Prince Speyer and the New York Women’s League for Animals in 1914

Ellin Prince Speyer got her start in animal welfare when she founded the Women’s Auxiliary to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). However, legend has it that Henry Bergh, the ASPCA’s founder, would not allow women to be members, causing Mrs. Speyer to break ranks and establish the independent New York Women’s League for Animals in 1910. This is the seed that grew into today’s Animal Medical Center, and it’s why you see “Since 1910” on our logo. The New York Women’s League for Animals initially opened a small clinic and dispensary on the Lower East Side, before opening a revolutionary, three-story hospital at 350 Lafayette Street, billed as the “First Animal Hospital in the United States” when it opened in 1914. Mrs. Speyer was instrumental in organizing and raising money for this landmark clinic.

Ellin Leslie Prince Lowery Speyer

Ellin Prince Speyer lived a long and varied life. Born Ellin Leslie Prince in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1849, she was orphaned at the age of 14 and was raised by an uncle. She married her first husband, John Lowery in 1871, and he died in 1892. She then married the successful banker James Speyer in 1897. Upon her death in 1921, she left her largest bequest of $50,000 to the Women’s League for Animals. In 2024, dollars this sum is equivalent to over $850,000. Today, we honor this legacy with our Ellin Prince Speyer Legacy Society for generous donors who make a commitment to AMC through a bequest or other legacy gift.

Ellin Prince Speyer’s Passion for Animals

Mrs. Speyer was a supporter of many New York City causes, but animals were her passion. One of the first projects undertaken by the nascent New York Women’s League for Animals was a horse watering station at the organization’s dispensary at 325 Lafayette Street. During busy summer months, up to 85 horses an hour used the watering station. At Christmas time, the League provided trees decked with bits of seed and suet for birds in New York City playgrounds. To prevent horses from slipping on icy streets in the winter, Mrs. Speyer kept chain shoes for draft horses in her home.

Early Advocates for the Human-Animal Bond

The members of the New York Women’s League for Animals recognized the link between domestic violence and poor treatment of animals as early as 1910. Under Mrs. Speyer’s direction, members of the League gave presentations at schools and sponsored essay contests for children to foster appreciation for all animals. This work led to advocacy in the New York State Legislature where Ellin Prince Speyer spearheaded efforts to codify kindly treatment of animal in school curricula.

The Women of AMC

Ellin Prince Speyer was not the only powerhouse woman in AMC’s history. Members of the Women’s League for Animals organized exhibitions to promote humane treatment of horses, sponsored fundraising recitals and hosted a pet show on Humane Sunday.

Carola Warburg Rothchild

Carola Warburg Rothchild was another leader and civic minded woman at AMC, serving as a member of the Board of Trustees and then Chairwoman for many years. The Carola Warburg Rothschild Society for the Human–Animal Bond, founded at AMC was named in her honor.

Mrs. George Bethhune Adams

According to a New York Times article from 1935, Mrs. George Bethhune Adams, the 87-year-old Director of the New York Women’s League for Animals, was called out of bed in the middle of the night because of a mad dog at a local police station. Mrs. Adams subdued the dog at the 51st Street Police Station with a piece of meat and some kindly words. She coaxed the large white bull terrier out of the police station cell where it was being held while six astonished policemen watched. Then, Mrs. Adams and the dog took a taxi to the Speyer Hospital at 350 Lafayette Street.

At AMC, Women’s History Month is a potent reminder that when we celebrate women’s history, we are celebrating the founding principles upon which AMC was founded more than 100 years ago. Compassionate care, revolutionary medicine, and strong female leadership are at the core of who we are and guide our care for our beloved animals, whether they are horses, birds, cats, or dogs or any other critter we call family.

Tags:
ellin prince speyer, Mrs. George Bethune Adams, The Animal Medical Center History, The Human-Animal Bond, The New York Women’s League for Animals, Women’s History Month,



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