Ida Scudder’s family was heavily involved in ministering to India. Her grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, second cousins, and parents were missionaries in the vast country. Her father was a doctor and her mother helped where she was needed. Ida was born in India on December 9, 1870. When she was as young as six she helped her family feed staring children during a famine. She hated the suffering and death she saw around her.
When she was seven she and her family went back home to America for her father’s health. After three years of living in a place where people had enough to eat and didn’t wear rags, Ida decided nothing could make her go back to India. As she grew older she resented that most of her family were missionaries. It didn’t help when her parents returned to India without her when she was a teenager. At sixteen her uncle sent her to a seminary for girls that was recommended by D. L. Moody. Schoolwork was a breeze for her, so she and her friend, Florence, spent the rest of their time getting into mischief and pulling pranks. When she was twenty Ida returned to India when she found out her mother was ill. But she intended to leave as soon as she could.
All her plans changed one night when three men came and asked her to help their wives deliver their babies. Because of their religion they didn’t let her father help and she refused to go because she had no training. In the morning all three women were dead.
That night Ida’s father told her, “If there’s nothing you can do to remedy a bad situation, the wisest thing to do is to forget about it.” After she heard about the deaths she made a decision. She could do something to help and she would. She’d go back to the U.S. to study medicine after her mother was better. Then she’d come back and help the women and babies of India. She never wanted a night like that to happen again.
In 1899 Ida passed her medical exams and became Dr. Ida Sophia Scudder. The first thing the mission board who supported asked her to do was raise $8,000 for a women’s hospital in Vellore, which was seventy-five miles from Madras. For weeks she presented the cause, but no one seemed interested in it. But then Robert Schell, the president of the Bank of the Metropolis in New York heard about it and donated $10,000 towards the hospital in memory of his wife. He also voluntarily paid for the equipment for the hospital.
On September 7, 1901 the Mary Taber Schell Memorial Hospital was opened. The hospital filled up and Ida had her hands full, especially when one of her doctors had to return to the U.S. In two years she treated 5,000 patients.
Ida had several unique situations to cope with. Once day she was sitting in the dispensary when she got the distinct feeling she should go check on a baby girl she delivered two weeks beforehand. When she arrived, she found the mother and grandmother trying to smother the baby because she had been born on an “unlucky” day. Ida took in the girl and named her Mary. Mary was soon followed by three more orphans.
Ida started traveling to villages to treat those who were relying on fake doctors. She started a nursing school, opened a tuberculosis sanitarium, and a medical college for women. She also began the Vellore Medical School Hospital, which was built on the very spot where her grandfather prayed and asked God to send laborers to meet the medical and spiritual needs of India. The hospitals were constantly expanding and being added on to.
In August of 1946 Ida retired at the age of seventy-six. She continued to live in India and spent her days writing letters, enlarging her garden (which included building a waterfall), reading medical journals and entertaining friends. She often went down to Vellore to see how things were going and to visit friends. A new doctor, Dr. Rambo, started an eye camp, where those who were blind could come and see if their eyesight could be restored. She also met a young surgeon, Dr. Paul Brand, who was the son of missionary parents. He had a passion for helping lepers and made amazing progress in the treatment of leprosy. She continued being involved in the opening of other medical facilities up to her death on May 24, 1960. She was ninety years old when she passed and spent sixty years of service in India.