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Rose Gruening

1876 – 1934

by Erin Elizabeth Clune

Known during her lifetime as the “Angel of Grand Street,” Rose Gruening was head worker and founder of the Grand Street Settlement in New York City. Although Gruening never liked this title, it attests to her significance in the eyes of many people. Like Jane Addams, Lillian Wald, and other women settlement workers of the early twentieth century, Gruening helped to create a social “safety net” through voluntary civic activism, before the concept of public responsibility for poor and disadvantaged Americans was enacted by the U.S. Government. Once the Depression and the New Deal transformed the workings of social welfare in the United States, the social service concept as practiced by Gruening and her contemporaries changed dramatically. Before it did so, however, thousands of immigrant families from the Lower East Side of New York experienced Gruening’s settlement house activism in personal and profound ways.

By the time Gruening established the Grand Street Settlement in 1916, she was intimately familiar with both the urban environment of New York and social service work. Rose Gruening was born in New York City in 1876 to Rose (Fridenberg) and Emil Gruening, a well-known eye and ear specialist. The elder Rose Gruening died of typhoid fever when giving birth to her daughter. Four years later, young Rose’s father married his late wife’s sister Phebe and with her raised four more children: Clara, Marie, Martha, and Ernest. Both Clara and Martha became writers, and their brother became a well-known journalist and editor for such newspapers as the New York Evening Post and the New York Tribune. Growing up in New York City near Gramercy Park, Rose Gruening attended the Ethical Culture School and later graduated from Vassar College. While the Gruenings subsequently moved their family home uptown to 57th Street, Rose Gruening began to focus her professional interests even farther downtown, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Gruening began her philanthropic career as a volunteer social worker in Madison House, the Ethical Culture Society’s settlement on the Lower East Side. Accounts of Gruening’s early career suggest that she first became interested in social work after college, when she visited an Ethical Culture School summer camp for poor children. In 1907, after having joined the staff of Madison House, Gruening persuaded its trustees to establish a summer recreation spot in Mountainville, New York, for the settlement’s urban dwellers. She called it Camp Moodna. Housing at Camp Moodna originally consisted of twenty converted horse cars, which Gruening obtained inexpensively from a transit company that was about to replace its older, horsedrawn cars with trolley and cable cars.

Over the next few decades, Camp Moodna changed hands as Gruening expanded her settlement house work. By 1916, Madison House was serving more people on the Lower East Side than it could easily accommodate. Rather than build an even larger Madison House, though, Gruening and some of her colleagues wanted to establish a smaller settlement in an underserved neighborhood. Gruening founded the new settlement on Division Street and named it the Arnold Toynbee House after the famous British social reformer. After three years, the settlement moved to larger quarters on the corner of Grand Street and East Broadway, aiming to improve the living and working conditions of people in the community by addressing the underlying causes of their poverty. During the 1920s and 1930s, the settlement organized children’s social clubs, offered child care for working parents, and provided showers for community residents whose homes had no running water. In 1925, its name was changed to the Grand Street Settlement, and during the Depression years, Camp Moodna was donated to the Grand Street Settlement in honor of Gruening.

Rose Gruening died at Camp Moodna on July 31, 1934, but the legacy of the “Angel of Grand Street” continues at the Grand Street Settlement even today.


AJYB 37:257; EJ; Gruening, Ernest. Many Battles: The Autobiography of Ernest Gruening (1973); Obituary. NYTimes, August 1, 1934, 17:4.

More on Rose Gruening

. Does anyone remember the Grove? We sat around the campfire and sang songs. The creek was my favorite place. I went first to the "Mother's Camp" with my Mom. Later I went to the camp. Does anyone recall the names of the bunks? At least on the girls' side, Weyon and Wakonda are 2 I remember, and on the boys' side, Apache and Iriquois are two that I can recall. My family was the Feldmans.

i went to Camp Moodna from 1960-1965 (?). i started as an eight year old. I remember there was only the lake to swim in but then they built a beautiful pool. I remember the wonderful counselors and my fellow campers. We put on plays that i completely enjoyed. I had my first boyfriend and i recently found a letter he wrote me. Does anyone remember they gave out awards. The was the "T" award which was in honor of Mr. Toynbee. There was also the "M" award. I think i still have my award, (the "M" award). I wanted to be a counselor there but i think it closed in the late 60's. My husband and i found it in the late 70's and it was called Camp Dora Golding. It was the winter so we didn't explore. It was a great experience. So glad my parents sent me there!

I was a counselor at Camp Moodna in the summer of 1958. I met my husband there and although Mrs. T told us to stop seeing each other, that our flame would go out by August, we are here to report that she was wrong. We have been married for 51 years and counting. Camp Moodna was a wonderful experience for me. I loved working with all the children and meeting many interesting people. We laughed a lot while we put on plays, swam in the lake, did arts and crafts, and gave out the much coveted T awards. That was a summer of many fond memories.

Vicki Melnick, I remember you! I was also a counselor at the camp in 1958, along with my cousin Carl, who was head of the waterfront (and I eventually went on to become a clinical social worker.) Somewhere I have pictures of that summer, and I know there's one of you with the girls in your cabin. I fell in love that summer, too, but it was just a summer romance. Now happily married for 47 years.. What a nice surprise to find you! Dee Golden Trasen

JWA has forwarded your message to Ms. Melnick (Plutchok). We hope she will be in touch with you directly. JWA is always pleased to bring people together.

It might also be noted that younger brother Ernest was territorial governor and state senator for Alaska. That seems significant beyond his other endeavors.

- Aaron

I lived on Cannon Street also, went to Camp Moodna too.

I remember going to Camp Moodna in Stroudsburg, PA when I was a Child. Did the Camp have a large Lake & on the other side of the Lake their was another Camp that Mother's would stay at with a younger Child if had one, & older Children stayed on Camp Moodna for I think 3 Weeks. I remember the Lake though, & the Mess Hall walking back from a Sleep out in the Woods on a very Rainy Night. I loved going to Camp Moodna & miss my Childhood Days spent at Camp sometimes. Do you know if the Camp is still in exhistence & active?

my family is trying to find out about Camp Moodna, my Uncle went there I believe in the 1940s and carved a totem pole, he became a reknowned sculptor attended Art Students League apprenticed with Jacque Lipschitz etc we'd like to know if the totem pole is still standing or what became of it, his name is Sol Lefkowitz. Thanks!

I remember the totem pole. I believe the campers gathered around it. I was a camper there when I was 9 thru about 14 in the early to late 1960's.

I am one of the owners of the propery up the hill that we always thought was Camp Moodna and for the first time am seeing Camp Gruening. Does anyone have any pictures of either would love to see them. John Hand

My childhood years were spent at Camp Moodna.. My mother and I went to Camp Rose Gruening (up the hill) and my brother went to camp Moodna.. we got to see him once a week. I have a picture of me at age 2 at the camp... We too, went the first trip because it was three weeks, but in the summer of 1955, we went on the second trip because it was my brother's Bar Mitzvah year.. I was 5 , yet I still recall how my brother lost everything in the flood.. Since I was still young, I continued going to Camp Moodna when it was relocated to East Stroudsberg Pa... My Mother continued going to Camp Rose Gruening.. When I was 7, I started going to camp Moodna and then I too only saw my mom once a week.. I remember getting the T award and 2 stars and still have them in my possession....Those were the best summers.. I stopped going in 1962.. My parents and Brother were holocaust survivors and had only been in the country a couple of years.. The Grand Street Settlement house was a blessing.......... Anyone out there remember Camp Moodna in East Stroudsberg,PA?

I went to Camp Moodna in E. Stroudsburg in the early 60s to mid 60s. I loved it. I was working at Tamiment, which was nearby, in 1969 and my friend and I went over to Moodna. I wanted her to see it. We drove onto the property and there was a man there who pulled out a rifle and pointed it at us. We headed out as fast as we could.

Went to Moodna two Augusts only I am 65, and I went when I was going on 13 and 14. It was fabulous and so were the reunions.

Too bad it's no longer in existence.

I remember the East Stroudsburg Camp Moodna very well. i was a camp counselor the summer of '67 and met my husband there. He, Manny Taylor, was one of the camp chefs. We married the following spring and went back for 2 more summers. Unfortunately, the camp was sold before the camp season of '70. It was a wonderful camp in a beautiful part of the Poconos where you could look out and see the Delaware Water Gap. And it had great programs for the kids. We were so sorry to see Camp Moodna come to an end.

I attended Camp Moodna in 1967 and 1968 and loved it. I was extremely upset when it ended after 1968. I have fond memories of hot chocolate in the Rec Hall, learning to swim in the pool, and making pizza out of american cheese, tomato sauce, and white bread (bleh to the pizza, but great memory anyway :-)). I also loved listening to one of the counselors play folk music, and still love folk music today. I remember he used to play "Four Strong Winds."

I remember going to Camp Moodna when I was 9 through about age 14/16. I am now 59. I remember going there for the entire summer because my mother wanted me out of the city/Lower East Side. I remember sitting around the lake singing camp songs, playing tennis, going on camp outs, going into the woods and playing with salamanders, walking up the hill to eat in the dining hall, going to the canteen, swimming in the pool (although the first year I was there, I was running around the pool and had to be taken to the hospital to be given stitches in my head). I remember a lot of the activities, cleaning up the bunks and having cubby holes for our clothes. I remember two women: Robin and Bonnie and a boy named Robert Trout.

I spent 4 summers at Moodna from 66-69, and have passed your post on to my sister, Amie, as she is about your age and was there those years too. Very fond memories, although faded with time. I remember the walk up the hill to the dining hall, and a chef by the name of Mr. Washington. I particularly remember the salamanders, which were very plentiful at the low point by the lake just before you started up the hill to the dining hall. I cannot remember many full names, mostly first names.

I attended Camp Moodna until 1955 when it was destroyed in Hurricane Diane (1955). That year I received Honorable Mention for a T. I was always on the "first trip" which was three weeks long, while the others were only two weeks. For me Camp Moodna was a bit of heaven, having grown up on Cannon St where a tree was a rarity. Does anyone have any pictures of the camp? Although I do not live in the US, I dream about visiting the old site.

I attended Camp Moodna until 1955 when it was destroyed in Hurricane Diane (1955). That year I received Honorable Mention for a T. I was always on the "first trip" which was three weeks long, while the others were only two weeks. For me Camp Moodna was a bit of heaven, having grown up on Cannon St where a tree was a rarity. Does anyone have any pictures of the camp? Although I do not live in the US, I dream about visiting the old site.

I lived on Cannon Street too. Went to Camp Moodna. write me!!

I attended Camp Moodna for five summers in the late 1940's; they were the happiest summers of my life. In those days there wa no airconditioning and the city streets were sweltering. Any child who was lucky enough to go the country was blessed. The greatest time was when the bues pulled up in front of the Grand St Settlement to take us to Mountainville and wonderful Camp Moodna. We went swimming in the creek, rock climbing on the other side of the dam, hiking up what we thought was the real Mohawk trail. This was no sissy camp: we cleaned our own bunks, waited on tables in the messhall, showere in ice cold water and the like. Although I did not live on the lowere east sie, I was able to go to Moodna prbably because someone took pity on me and let me be included. Does anyone remember the G, the T, the two stars? There were honor awards for being a good camper. the names of the G winners were engraved on a special plaque in the mess hall.

I attended Camp Moodna for several years, until it was flooded by a storm that came up the Hudson Valley in the mid-1950s. The campers had been moved from the bunks to the mess hall, which had been surrounded by the waters of the flooded creek. They were rescued by soldiers from West Point, who came with amphibious vehicles and got them from the mess hall to Route 32. They were then taken up the hill to Camp Rose Gruening.

The land that Rose Gruening donated to the Grand Street Settlement is now owned by the Storm King Mountain Art Center. The land will never be developed and will be kept in its current status.Nature has reclaimed the land so that the open spaces I recalled as a camper are now gone and taken over by a very heavily forrested area.The Dam is still there although in poor condition. As a member of the Storm King Mountain Art Center I am apprised of plans. The current plans are to leave the grounds as they are in order to provide a buffer between route 32 and the Camp Felicia side of Moodna Creek. I took a hike into the forest and found the Handball court still there as well as foundations and stairs to the bunks. The old mess hall and wreck hall can be made out by the floors that remain in each building. Schunemonk Mountain is likewise the property of Storm King Art Center. Lastly, although now closed, the Ketcham General Store ( where we hiked as young campers) still stands in Mountainville.

Just the boys side belongs to Storm King Art Center, My brothers and I own the property on the other side of rt 32 that was the girls camp. Growing up we explored the boys camp and found all kinds of things that were part of the camp, we used the hand ball court for basketball, and the dam was a great swimming hole. Later on it was discovered by an older group of kids who used it for a hiding/party place, and littered the grounds with broken beer bottles, made fire pits, and generally destroyed the peaceful setting. The property we own is for sale.

How to cite this page

Clune, Erin Elizabeth. "Rose Gruening." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 28, 2017) <>.


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