logo logo

Lillian D. Wald

Lillian D. Wald was an American nurse, humanitarian and author. She was known for contributions to human rights and was the founder of American community nursing. She founded the Henry Street Settlement in New York City and was an early advocate to have nurses in public schools.

Background

  • Wald was born into a German-Jewish middle-class family in Cincinnati, Ohio; her father was an optical dealer. In 1878, she moved with her family to Rochester, New York.

  • Education

    • She attended Miss Cruttenden's English-French Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies. She applied to Vassar College at the age of 16, but the school thought that she was too young. In 1889, she attended New York Hospital's School of Nursing. She graduated from the New York Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1891, then took courses at the Woman's Medical College.

    Career

    • Wald worked for a time at the New York Juvenile Asylum (now Children's Village), an orphanage where conditions were poor. By 1893, she left medical school and started to teach a home class on nursing for poor immigrant families on New York City's Lower East Side at the Hebrew Technical School for Girls. Shortly thereafter, she began to care for sick Lower East Side residents as a visiting nurse. Along with another nurse, Mary Brewster, she moved into a spartan room near her patients, in order to care for them better. Around that time she coined the term "public health nurse" to describe nurses whose work is integrated into the public community.

      Wald founded the Henry Street Settlement. The organization attracted the attention of prominent Jewish philanthropist Jacob Schiff, who secretly provided Wald with money to more effectively help the "poor Russian Jews" whose care she provided. By 1906 Wald had 27 nurses on staff, and she succeeded in attracting broader financial support from such gentiles as Elizabeth Milbank Anderson. By 1913 the staff had grown to 92 people. The Henry Street Settlement eventually developed as the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

      Wald advocated for nursing in public schools. Her ideas led the New York Board of Health to organize the first public nursing system in the world. She was the first president of the National Organization for Public Health Nursing. Wald established a nursing insurance partnership with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company that became a model for many other corporate projects. She suggested a national health insurance plan and helped to found the Columbia University School of Nursing. Wald authored two books relating to her community health work, The House on Henry Street (1911) and Windows on Henry Street (1934).

      Wald also taught women how to cook and sew, provided recreational activities for families, and was involved in the labor movement. Out of her concern for women's working conditions, she helped to found the Women's Trade Union League in 1903 and later served as a member of the executive committee of the New York City League. In 1910, Wald and several colleagues went on a six-month tour of Hawaii, Japan, China, and Russia, a trip that increased her involvement in worldwide humanitarian issues.

      In 1915, Wald founded the Henry Street Neighborhood Playhouse. She was an early leader of the Child Labor Committee, which became the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC). The group lobbied for federal child labor laws and promoted childhood education. In the 1920s, the organization proposed an amendment to the U.S. constitution that would have banned child labor.

      Wald was also concerned about the treatment of African Americans. As a civil rights activist, she insisted that all Henry Street classes be racially integrated. In 1909, she became a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The organization's first major public conference opened at the Henry Street Settlement.

      Wald organized New York City campaigns for suffrage, marched to protest the entry of the United States into World War I, joined the Woman's Peace Party and helped to establish the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. In 1915 she was elected president of the newly formed American Union Against Militarism (AUAM). She remained involved with the AUAM's daughter organizations, the Foreign Policy Organization and the American Civil Liberties Union, after the United States joined the war.

      She died of a cerebral hemorrhage on September 1, 1940. A rabbi conducted a memorial service at Henry Street's Neighborhood Playhouse. A private service was also held at Wald's home. A few months later at Carnegie Hall, over 2,000 people gathered at a tribute to Wald that included messages delivered by the president, governor and mayor. She was interred at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester.

    Works

    • Lillian Wald of Henry Street
    • A biography of an urban pioneer who evolved new concepts of public health, led the movement for peace, and pressed government to assume responsibility for the economic well-being of its citizens.
    • Lillian Wald: A Biography
    • Founder of Henry Street Settlement on New York's Lower East Side as well as the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Lillian Wald (1867-1940) was a remarkable social welfare activist.
    • The House on Henry Street
    • Unlike some other reproductions of classic texts (1) We have not used OCR(Optical Character Recognition), as this leads to bad quality books with introduced typos.

    Membership

    Member Joint Board Sanitary Control, and Chairman of Commission on home nursing, Council National Defense, World War. Member Mayor’s Pushcart Commission, 1906, New York State communications of Immigration, 1909. Member 1st Welfare Council, New York.

    Member White House Conference on Child Health and Protection, 1909, 30. Member of New York City Loose Milk Commission, 1931. Member United States Commision on Cooperation in Pan-American Child Welfare Work.

    Member Executive Committee Welfare Council of New York (member Executive Committee coördinating commission on unemployment 1930-1931). Member Executive Committee New York Child Labor Committee. Vice-president Bellevue-Yorkville Health Demonstration.

    Member of advisory board City Housing Corporation, Milbank Memorial Fund. Member advisory council American School of Nursing, Institute International Education. Member women’s auxiliary committee of the United States, 2d Pan-American Scientific Congress.

    Connections

    • Wald never married. She maintained her closest relationships and attachments with women. Correspondence reveals that Wald felt intimate affection for at least two of her companions, homemaking author Mabel Hyde Kittredge and lawyer Helen Arthur. Ultimately, however, Wald was more engaged in her work with Henry Street than in any intimate relationship. In regard to Wald's relationships, author Clare Coss writes that Wald "remained in the end forever elusive. She preferred personal independence, which allowed her to move quickly, travel freely and act boldly."
    • father: Max Wald
    • mother: Minnie Wald
    Lillian Wald
    See on larger map
    Born March 10, 1867
    Died September 1, 1940
    (aged 73)
    Nationality
    Ethnicity:
    • 1889
      New York Hospital's School of Nursing
      New York, United States
    • 1909
      Founding member, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
      New York, United States
    • 1915
      Leader, National Child Labor Committee (NCLC)
      Westport, Connecticut
    • 1915
      Founder, Henry Street Neighborhood Playhouse
      Connecticut, United States