By Lorrie Rands, Manuscript Processor
While working in Special Collections I have done quite a bit of research into the life of Annie Maude Dee Porter, and she has become a personal hero of mine. But I haven’t looked too much into the life of her mother, Annie Taylor Dee. I decided it was time to shed some light on this woman who encouraged her children to think and act big.
Annie was born in 1852 in England and migrated to Utah in 1860 with her family. In 1871 she married Thomas D. Dee in Ogden; the couple had eight children. Towards the end of Annie’s life, her oldest daughter, Maude, said, “for such a frail woman as our mother was, the act of bearing eight children was an almost overpowering task.” As I read this I had a hard time coming to terms with this statement, because I couldn’t think of Annie as frail. In my mind, the circumstances of Annie’s life turned her into a giant.
Annie was encouraged by her husband to find her own interests outside the home, and she became involved with politics. She was president of the Eighth Ward Relief Society for sixteen years, even though, according to Maude, she had never attended Relief Society before. She was also an early member of the Child Culture Club and a founding member of the Martha Society. Annie also took part in some of the various projects her husband was involved in.
In 1894, the first of two events occurred that would have a lasting impact on her life. Her oldest son, Reese, died on their kitchen table from an appendicitis operation gone wrong. I can only imagine what effect this had on her, watching helplessly as her son died in her home. Then in 1905 her husband died of pneumonia after falling into a river in South Fork Canyon. These two events convinced Annie that medical care in her community needed to be improved and prompted her to open a hospital in her husband's honor.
In 1910 the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital opened on the corner of Harrison and 24th Street in Ogden. Annie was the president and Maude was the secretary. In the beginning, to encourage use of the hospital, Annie paid the twenty-five dollar fee for any woman delivering her baby in the hospital. (Each mother had fourteen days to recover in the hospital, something I would have loved when having my own children.) In fact, Annie used her own funds to keep the hospital open when they faced financial struggles while she looked for the right investors. For this she turned to a family friend, David O. McKay, who at the time was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1915, with the help of the Church and the Ogden community, the Thomas D. Dee Memorial hospital remained opened. It continues to this day as the McKay-Dee Hospital, providing healthcare to the Ogden community and northern Utah.
As I have thought about this woman and her accomplishments, I see that circumstances helped to motivate her actions, but the desire to be of service was cultivated throughout her entire life. Annie began keeping a diary in 1918, and it is clear from those diaries that she did not have a formal education. Instead of allowing that to hinder her, she took the circumstances that life brought her and made the most out of them. Her example is something we can all use today.