Public School Programs
Lillian Wald, 1867 - 1940
"The state recognizes its responsibility for the development of citizens. To meet this responsibility, the school is its most efficient agency."
Wald's advocacy for children soon took her beyond the Henry Street neighborhood and into municipal institutions like New York City's public schools. Dedicated to the notion that public schools must accommodate the needs of all their students and that all children deserve access to adequate health care and nutrition, Wald sought to institute supportive systems within the public school framework. In 1900, she convinced the New York City Board of Education to hire Elizabeth Farrell, a Henry Street resident, to teach special education classes for children with learning disabilities and physical handicaps. Wald's enthusiasm for the project "came from a deep-lying principle that every human being merits respectful consideration of his rights and his personality." In 1902, Wald pressured the school system to provide school nurses and succeeded in having Lina L. Rogers, a Henry Street nurse, hired as New York City's first public school nurse. In her first month, Rogers treated 893 students, made 137 home visits, and helped 25 children who had received no previous medical attention recover and return to school. Shortly thereafter, the Board of Health hired its first fleet of twelve school nurses. Finally, in 1908, Wald lobbied for "a regular system of school lunch" for all children in the public school system. She believed that "it is a serious loss to the individual child to have 'free food kitchen' associated with the school. His most precious gift, if foreign born, is the absence of class distinction in the public school—the stronghold of democracy." The same year, due in part to Wald's earlier efforts, the New York City Board of Education established the first Department of Special Education.
- "The state recognizes..." From Lillian Wald, Annals of the American Academy of Political Science. (Vol. 25. March 1905) 297.
- "came from a deep-lying..." From Lillian Wald, The House on Henry Street. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. 1915) 121.
- "a regular system..." From Lillian Wald, "The Feeding of School Children". Charities and the Commons: The Official Organ of the Charity Organization Society of the City of New York. (June 13, 1908) 372.
- "it is a serious loss..." From Lillian Wald, "The Feeding of School Children". Charities and the Commons: The Official Organ of the Charity Organization Society of the City of New York. (June 13, 1908) 372.