Rosanna Belle Perrigo, with no formal nurse’s training, spent most of her adult life caring for sick and needy children. Estimates of the number of babies she nursed back to health range from 400 to 600; this was in addition to the five children that she and her husband raised to adulthood.
She was born in Eaton County, Michigan, on June 22, 1870. Rose did child care and housework for neighbors to help feed the family since her father had been injured in the Civil War and could not work. She could only afford to go to school in alternate years.
Rose Livingston met Frank Perrigo while they were both working in Springport, caring for an orphaned boy and girl who were living with their grandparents. Frank and Rose were married January 1, 1890, and lived for sixteen years north of Duck Lake. They adopted the boy and girl when the grandparents died. Later they adopted three other children and moved to a house on Burr Oak Street in Albion.
A Springport physician hired Rose as his assistant, and she learned much during her years with him. She had to retire in 1922 because of her own health and the needs of her family. This did not end her dedication to improving the lot of children.
That same year, she spoke to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union on “The Rights and Needs of Children,” arguing for the establishment of a visiting nurse service in Albion, which was achieved. She continued to work in her home, consulting with parents of children and even taking children into her home temporarily if that seemed necessary.
She had many strong opinions about child-raising, and did not hesitate to show them, but she was accorded much respect throughout the area because of her well-known ability to heal and comfort babies. Of all the children she cared for, it was said, she lost only two.
Besides her family life and her work with babies, Rose participated in the Parent-Teacher Association, Albion Women’s Club (she was an honorary member), Three-Quarters-Century Club (honorary membership granted before she was old enough to qualify), Rebekahs, Duck Lake Christian Endeavor Society, First Methodist Church, and the Albion Business and Professional Women (honorary member).
Rosanna Belle Perrigo (1870-1949) provided love and care for hundreds of ailing babies at her Burr Oak St. home in the early 20th century. Knwown as “Albion’s Angel” and “Albion’s Genius Nurse,” Mrs. Perrigo saved over 500 babies during her career. A “Perrigo Day” was held in her honor in 1931.
Sources: Albion Evening Recorder, September 9, 1948, and September 13, 1948; Detroit Free Press, February 1933; “Albion’s Milestones and Memories” (Three-Quarters-Century Club, 1932)
From: Albion AAUW. Some Notable Women of the Albion Area. Albion, Michigan: American Association of University Women. 1998.