Monrovia Honors Former Slave Kate Wright

The unveiling of the Neighborhood Treasure in honor of Wright. - Courtesy photo / Ralph Walker
The unveiling of the Neighborhood Treasure in honor of Wright. – Courtesy photo / Ralph Walker

Wright treated locals diagnosed with tuberculosis

By Ralph Walker

Dr. Pottenger’s Sanatorium was renowned for treating tuberculosis, but he was apparently not the only resident who cared for those stricken with the disease. Fondly known as “Aunt Kate,” Kate Wright (1861- 1937) was a remarkable woman who opened her heart and her home to indigent men with tuberculosis.

Having no wealth of her own, she depended on the community to donate food and money to ease the suffering of men who could not afford treatment or whose disease was too advanced for recovery. She also asked for and received donations of building materials to build small one room cottages on her property to give patients privacy and dignity. At Thanksgiving, she distributed baskets of food for needy families. She was respected and revered by Monrovians from all walks of life.

On Saturday, the sounds of Aretha Franklin filled the air as children raced around seeking an ice cold treat and the city prepared to unveil the second in a series of Monrovia treasures. The crowd was as diverse as Wright’s clientele.

Monrovia Town Historian Steve Baker shared the history of Aunt Kate Wright, a former slave from Clark County, Kentucky. She was able to read and write – something not common for many African-Americans of her generation back in the 1857.

Around 1907 Aunt Kate Wright had a religious conversion and out of that experience came the conviction that she would devote her life to the care of the sick and the indigent.

Ms. Kate Wright was born in October 1860. Little is known of her life prior to coming to Monrovia. Ms. Wright and her son, Marshall, lived with a minister and his family and moved to Monrovia in 1900. She informed others that she had a conversation with God one day, and decided to devote her life to care for the sick and the poor form that moment on.

Through donations of supplies and labor, she built small cottages on her property, where she tended for patients suffering from tuberculosis who had no family or resources to assist them. She received no financial compensation for any of her services. Ms. Wright continued to selflessly support others for over 30 years. She died in 1937 and is buried at Live Oak Cemetery. The artist Don Mendelson was honored to be able to be part of this very special event. Aunt Kate Wright is no longer a hidden treasure in the history of Monrovia thanks to Monrovia Area Partnership.


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