Mayor Martin J. Walsh proclaimed Sept. 18 Mary Ann Vincent Day in honor of the 19th-centrury actress who is the namesake of the Vincent Club, a Boston-based, self-described “women’s organization dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of women,” as well as the Massachusetts General Hospital Vincent Department of OB/GYN.
“Mary Ann was a fantastic example of philanthropy in our city,” Mayor Walsh said in a statement. “Her contributions to both Massachusetts General Hospital and the City of Boston will never be forgotten.”
Born in Portsmouth, England, on Sept. 18, 1818, Mrs. (Farlow) Vincent was orphaned at age 4 and left to live with her grandmother and an aunt. She made her stage debut at 16 at Cowes on the Island of Wight and was hired as a permanent member of the theatrical company in 1835 – the same year she married James R. Vincent, an actor nine years her senior.
The Vincents spent more than a decade traveling and working as actors in the United Kingdom until the manger of the National Theatre in Boston saw them perform in Liverpool in 1846. At the manager’s request, the couple sailed to America and was performing with the National Theatre by the following week.
The Vincents continued working with the National Theatre until James’ sudden death in 1950. Newly widowed at 32, Mrs. Vincent returned to the stage after only a few week of mourning to support herself.
In 1852, Mrs. Vincent made her debut at the Boston Museum, where, with the exception of one season, she would work until her death in 1887. During this time, she would act in more than 444 roles and once performed before President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, to commemorate Mary Ann Vincent Day, Dr. Jeff Ecker, chief of staff of the MGH Vincent Department of OB/GYN, was scheduled to throw out the first pitch on Wednesday, Sept. 18, when the Red Sox faced off against the San Francisco Giants at Fenway Park.
“When I [accepted this job], I didn’t imagine I’d be throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park,” Dr. Ecker said prior to the game. “It wasn’t part of the job description, but I am looking forward to doing it.”
Dr. Ecker credits his wife, Sarah, for assuming catching duties while he practiced for his Major League debut.
“The Vincent Club has been great partner to us for nearly a century now, allowing us to do things that are special for the department, and we’re totally excited to celebrate it,” Dr. Ecker added.
The Vincent Club, which was established in 1892, has supported research, education training and clinical care at Massachusetts General Hospital since 1948.
Mary Feeny, president of the Vincent Club, was set to stand alongside Dr. Ecker at Fenway Park. (Mayor Walsh has also filmed a one-minute video tribute to Mrs. Vincent, which was scheduled to be screened on the “jumbotron” at the ballpark last night as well.)
The seeds for Mary Ann Vincent Day were planted during a gala fundraiser in May when the Vincent Club was coming off a yearlong celebration of what would’ve been for Mrs. Vincent’s 200th birthday, Feeny said.
“She was a very hard-working, incredibly kind person who gave her time and all her spare income to her community and basically concentrated on helping those who were underprivileged or underserved through Trinity Church,” Feeny said.
Mrs. Vincent worked in the Trinity Church dispensary, which provided healthcare to the poor when such a luxury was typically administered to only affluent patients who could afford it. A dialogue had already begun on how to solve this healthcare inequity before her death, and after Mrs. Vincent’s demise, three friends of hers each contributed $1,000 to the bishop of Trinity Church to open a hospital for working women in her name – the Vincent Memorial Hospital (which was established in Boston in 1890 and merged with MGH 50 years later).
“It was a lifetime of kindness, compassion and connection to her community that was ultimately Mary Ann Vincent’s greatest gift to Boston,” Feeny said. “In recognizing that the actions of one can make a significant difference for the greater good, the mayor invites us all to consider Mary Ann Vincent Day as a day of service to our community and an opportunity to brighten the day of a neighbor.”