Women of Valor

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Henry Street Settlement

Lillian Wald, 1867 - 1940

" Over broken asphalt, over dirty mattresses and heaps of refuse we went... There were two rooms and a family of seven not only lived here but shared their quarters with boarders... [I felt] ashamed of being a part of society that permitted such conditions to exist... What I had seen had shown me where my path lay."

In 1893, Wald found her life's work when she agreed to teach a class in home nursing and hygiene to immigrant women on the Lower East Side. One day, while teaching, a little girl approached Wald and asked her to attend to her sick mother. The child led her through the tenements,"over broken roadways...between tall, reeking houses...across a court where open and unscreened closets were promiscuously used by men and women, up into a rear tenement, by slimy steps...and finally into the sickroom" where Wald attended to the child's mother. Her encounter with the young girl's family prompted Wald to dedicate her life's work to the tenement community. Wald wrote,"that morning's experience was a baptism of fire. Deserted were the laboratory and academic work of college. I never returned to them... I rejoiced that I had a training in the care of the sick that in itself would give me an organic relationship to the neighborhood in which this awakening had come." With funding from philanthropists and friends, Wald and Mary Brewster, her friend and colleague, established the Visiting Nurses Service in 1893. By January 1894, the two had visited over 125 families and offered advice to many more. One year later, Wald moved to 265 Henry Street and founded the renowned Henry Street Settlement House.

Notes: 
  1. "Over broken asphalt..." From Lillian Wald, The House on Henry Street. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. 1915) 5-8.
  2. "over broken roadways..." From Lillian Wald, The House on Henry Street. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. 1915) 5-8.
  3. "that morning’s experience..." From Lillian Wald, The House on Henry Street. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. 1915) 5-8.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Lillian Wald - Henry Street Settlement." (Viewed on April 16, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/wald/henry-street-settlement>.