As an international public health nurse during World War I and between the wars, Amelia Greenwald was a leader in the field of public health.
She was born in Gainesville, Alabama, on March 1, 1881, to Joseph Greenwald (a grain dealer and mayor) and Elisha (Elise Haas) Greenwald, German Jewish immigrants who married in Memphis, Tennessee. She was the youngest of eight children: Isaac, Carrie, Jake, Morris, Sylvester, Julian, and Isadore. On her father’s knee, Greenwald listened to stories of the Confederate nurses during the Civil War and knew that she wanted to became a trained nurse.
After her debut into society, Greenwald entered Touro Infirmary Training School for Nurses in New Orleans, Louisiana, and graduated in 1908. In 1909, she helped to organize the Pensacola Sanitarium in Pensacola, Florida. After working in a hospital in North Carolina, she moved to Baltimore in 1913 to attend a postgraduate course in psychiatric nursing at Phipps Clinic at Johns Hopkins University.
In 1914, Greenwald came to New York, where she met Henrietta Szold, who introduced her to Zionist ideas. Deciding that she would prefer to work among her own people, she took private tutoring in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Jewish history while attending the nursing program at Columbia University Teachers College. After her graduation from Columbia, she worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and then directed the New Jersey Public Health Association in Long Branch, New Jersey, from 1916 until she accepted overseas service with the American Expeditionary Forces (American Red Cross pin number 5532) during World War I. Stationed in France, Greenwald served as acting chief nurse of a hospital in Verdun and as night superintendent of a hospital in Savoy. She assisted German war brides and helped establish the first American hospital, at Coblenz, Germany. For her service at Meuse-Argonne Defensive Sector, she applied for and received the Victory Medal. She maintained her membership in the American Legion throughout her life.
In October 1919, the National Council of Jewish Women asked Greenwald to head its farm women program. In 1923, she established the Jewish Nurses’ Training School at the Jewish Hospital in Warsaw, using the New York State university nursing curriculum. For four years, she trained leadership staff. The school received international accolades, and Greenwald was decorated with the Polish Golden Cross of Merit. She is remembered in Warsaw not only as a leader in public health but also as the first woman driver in Poland.
After returning to the United States, Greenwald worked in Miami and again in New York with the National Council’s Department of Farm and Rural Work. In 1932, she was the director of the Nurse’s Training School at Rothschild Hospital (Hadassah).
Although unmarried, Greenwald adopted her fifteen-year-old cousin Liselotte Levy to save the girl from Nazism. She called Liselotte her “greatest blessing.”
Amelia Greenwald died on January 1, 1966, and was interred in Beth Israel Cemetery, Meridian, Mississippi.
Greenwald, Amelia. Nursing Education in Poland: International Aspects of Nursing Education (1925);
Kahn, Catherine. “From the Archives.” Tourovues (Fall 1992): 24–27;
Mayer, Susan L. “Amelia Greenwald: Pioneer in International Public Health.” Nursing and Health Care 15 (1994): 74–78, and “The Jewish Experience in Nursing in America: 1881 to 1955.” Ed.D. diss., Columbia University Teachers College, 1996;
Sokoloff, Leon. “Amelia Greenwald (1881–1966): Pioneer American-Jewish Nurse.” Korot (1993–1994): 92–101;
Turitz, Leo. “Amelia Greenwald (1881–1966).” American Jewish Archives 37 (November 1985): 291–292.
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Mayer, Susan L.. "Amelia Greenwald." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 26, 2020) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/greenwald-amelia>.