Women of Valor


Federal Children's Bureau

Lillian Wald, 1867 - 1940

"The national sense of humor was aroused by the grim fact that whereas the Federal Government concerned itself with the conservation of material wealth, mines and forests, hogs and lobsters, and had long since established bureaus to supply information concerning them, citizens who desired instruction and guidance for the conservation and protection of the children of the nation had no responsible governmental body to which to appeal."

In 1904, Wald had joined a group of Progressive reformers working to abolish child labor, promote children's health, and reclaim children who dropped out of school. Calling themselves the National Child Labor Committee, they used $100,000 in private funds for investigations, but then concluded that any proposed changes would work only if legislated and enforced by the federal government. Wald conceived of the Federal Children's Bureau in 1905 and campaigned for it tirelessly. When it was finally established in 1912, she commented that it was "a great step forward in social welfare." In addition, the fact that Wald and her coalition of female advocates had succeeded in creating a voice for women who did not yet have the right to vote or formally exercise political power, was, for Wald, "a symbol of the most hopeful aspect of America...its existence is enormously significant."

  1. "The national sense..." Lillian Wald, The House on Henry Street. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. 1915) 165.
  2. "a great step forward..." Lillian Wald, The American City. June 1912, p 847.
  3. "a symbol of the most..." Lillian Wald, The House on Henry Street. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. 1915) 167.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Lillian Wald - Federal Children's Bureau." (Viewed on April 24, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/wald/federal-childrens-bureau>.