Dr. Margaret Mace’s connection with the thousands of children she delivered didn’t end the day they were born.
“She not only brought me into this world, but all the years I went to school Dr. Mace gave me the shoes to go in,” one man recalled in a 1950s newspaper article about her.
He was not alone.
“She never had anything of her own. She gave it all away,” said Bob Bright, a Middle Township resident delivered by Mace on May 23, 1936.
Bright, who worked for many years as manager of the Wildwood Historical Society’s museum, has a lifetime of Wildwood memories, and Mace stands out among them.
“I’ll bet you half of the babies that were born in that hospital she was never paid for,” Bright said. “She never turned anybody away.”
Mace, born in England in 1871, moved with her family to the United States as a little girl, settling in the Anglesea section of what would become North Wildwood in the 1880s.
Five Mile Beach would always be her home and, after graduating from the Women’s College of Medicine in Philadelphia in May 1905, she began practicing medicine in her hometown.
Years later, in 1915, she opened her hospital and soon became a North Wildwood legend. A display at the Historical Society’s museum on Pacific Avenue features a portrait of Mace and other artifacts, including her black medical bag, a St. Christopher’s medal still hanging on its side.
Newspaper accounts recall a 1935 snowstorm in which Mace took to horseback to help a woman in labor. Police Capt. Louis Fiocca recalled the doctor climbing onto the horse without hesitation to lend a hand.
When he learned that Mace was 65 at the time, he replied, “I suppose she was, but Maggie never turned down a call for help.”
Another story recounted an incident in which a man was pinned under a train. She went to the scene, climbing underneath to administer aid.
She was also known as a friend to fishermen, treating their injuries with expert care.
Mace operated her hospital until 1950 and died the following year, but even those with no connection to her take time to remember.
“She’s really like a hero to me,” said Dorothy Kulisek, a North Wildwood resident whose admiration for Mace continues to grow. “She was probably one of the most important people on the island.”
Kulisek, a native of Philadelphia, moved to the island 28 years ago and never met the doctor, but she came to respect her through the words of friends.
“I met Bill Morey, and he gushed about being a Mace baby,” Kulisek recalled.
She soon learned that Mace had operated a hospital on the island at 2410 Atlantic Ave. for 35 years, and during that time she delivered about 6,000 babies.
Kulisek, who publishes the local SUN by-the-sea newspaper five times a year, became so passionate about Mace’s story that she began assembling groups of Mace babies each summer in tribute to the doctor.
“Mostly anyone who hears about it wants to come. We had one who came back 500 miles to be here for the photo,” Kulisek said.
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