Rebecca Parrish Grave Site


Washington Park East Cemetery -- Section G
10612 E. Washington St.
Indianapolis, Indiana


M.E. - Methodist Episcopal


The Dr. Rebecca Parrish grave site is hallowed for the remarkable achievements of the first educated woman doctor in the Philippine Islands, a medical missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Sarah Rebecca Parrish was a native of Indiana. Born on a farm near Logansport in 1869, and raised in the Bethel  M.E. Church near her home, she was fascinated by the stories of medical missionaries which she and her mother studied together. Orphaned young, Rebecca overcame ill health and heavy family responsibilities to obtain an education, eventually graduating fourth in her class at the Medical College of Indiana. She taught school and later worked as an assistant physician while seeking appointment as a medical missionary. Finally, in 1906, she was commissioned by the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society to serve in Manila.

There she found a volatile situation. The Filipinos deeply resented the American. Disease, poverty, famine, superstition, and suspicion were rampart. Infant mortality was reported to exceed fifty per cent. The Methodist Episcopals had previously sent missionaries and medics, but Dr. Parrish was the first female physician from the church. She was given a room in which to start Dispensaria Betania or "Bethany Clinic," which was soon overcrowded. She expanded the clinic into a small hospital, and began training Filipino women as nurses.  No patient was ever returned away.

Providence smiled when Daniel B. R. Johnston made a gift of $12,500 to found a hospital in memory of his late wife, Mary. Rebecca obtained land in Tondo, a wretchedly poor section of Manila, and the cornerstone was laid in 1907.

This fifty-five-bed hospital for women and children burned just three years after it opened, but was replaced with a general hospital. Working as much as twenty hours a day, Dr. Parrish continued to guide the institution until her retirement in 1933, whereupon she returned to Indiana and continued to speak and write for the needy of the world and raise money for their cause. The Mary Johnston Hospital was leveled again during World War II as the Japanese retreated, but once more was rebuilt and remains in a vital ministry in Manila. Its founder died in Indianapolis on August 22, 1952, and was buried in Washington Park East. Her handsome marker bears the inscription: "1869-1952; World Renowned Medical Missionary to the Philippine Islands from 1906 to 1933."

Details of Dr. Parrish's life and ministry are found in several publications, including Kwantes, Anne C., She Has Done a Beautiful Thing for Me: Portraits of Christian Women in Asia. Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature Inc., 2005, pp. 163-172.

GPS: 39 46 37.8, -085 58 22.7

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