Elizabeth (Bess) Robinson Saalfield focused her benevolent activities primarily around the Mary Day Nursery and Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio.
Elizabeth Robinson was born into one of the most prosperous, important families of Akron. She was the daughter of the founder of Robinson Clay Products. She lived a pampered life. She went to the best schools, graduating from Wellesley College in 1909; and she married well, to A.G. (Albert) Saalfield, who would soon take over the management of Saalfield Publishing, a national publishing company located in Akron.
The Saalfield mansion, Robinwood, became the center for visiting dignitaries, including movie star Shirley Temple, who had business dealings with Saalfield Publishing. (Saalfield published the “authorized” Shirley Temple books.)
Robinwood was also a meeting place for benevolent women in the city, especially those associated with the Mary Day Nursery and Children’s Hospital. Saalfield got involved with the Mary Day Nursery shortly after graduating from college. She served on many committees but her “special project” was the Children’s Charity, a kind of self-help program where Akron children donated money each year toward the purchase of needed hospital equipment at Children’s Hospital. Saalfield helped establish the charity in 1913 and supervised its growth until 1949.
Besides the Children’s Charity, she also served on the board of the Mary Day Nursery and for a time was president of the Women’s Board of Children’s Hospital, which with the trustees ran the hospital corporation. In 1960, she was given one of the few 50-year awards for volunteer work at Children’s Hospital.
Besides her involvement with Children’s, she also served on the Women’s Board of the Sumner Home for the Aged and worked in a variety of associations affiliated with her church, First Presbyterian.
Saalfield died in 1971 in Norfolk, two years after her husband.
Photo courtesy of the Beacon Journal.
–Kathleen L. Endres