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Lillian Wald’s Sketches of the Henry Street Settlement, 1934

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Historical Background

Discussion Questions

Level: Middle School and above

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More of this TYPE: Cartoons

More of this TIME PERIOD: 1900-1949

More on these TOPICS: Health, Education & Welfare, Immigration


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By the 1820s, New York’s Lower East Side was home to the city’s poorest residents. For the next several decades, its tenements and crowded streets were the first stop for successive waves of new arrivals to the city. During the early years of the twentieth century, middle-class American-born Progressives established settlement houses in the worst areas to help these immigrants adjust to the hardships of urban life.

By the 1930s, the widespread immigration of recent decades had ceased, and many of the earlier arrivals had achieved enough economic success to move out of the urban ghetto. The troubles of those who remained resulted from the long-standing economic issues that caused the Great Depression of the 1930s. Social welfare organizations, such as the Henry Street Settlement, shifted their efforts from immigrant adjustment to more general social welfare activities, and they were joined in these endeavors by Federal government agencies.

Lillian Wald, who drew these pictures, had been one of the founders of the Henry Street Settlement in the 1890s. Her continued involvement and optimism, despite continued hardship for the city’s poor, is evident from these drawings.

For more on the work of the Henry Street Settlement, go to JWA’s Women of Valor Lillian Wald exhibit.

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1. Describe the foreground and background of each drawing. Are there common elements in these drawings?

2. What message is Wald trying to convey through these pictures?

3. Describe the children in the sketches. What do these images have in common? How do the images of the children in these sketches differ from one another?

4. Settlement houses served many purposes in the urban environment. Which of these purposes are evident in the drawings?

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How to Cite This Page
Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA - Cartoons - Sketches of the Henry Street Settlement." <>.