Lillian Laser Strauss performed pioneering work in public health and child welfare in Pennsylvania, became a lawyer at age fifty, and, in the midst of active legal advocacy for public health, died suddenly of a heart attack at age fifty-six.
She was born on February 22, 1889, in Little Rock, Arkansas, and graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1909. She was in charge of publicity at the Bureau of Municipal Research in New York City and was editor of their Field Reports from 1911 to 1913. In 1914, she married Berthold Strauss, a textile manufacturer in Philadelphia, with whom she had two children: Bella (b. 1918), and Richard (b. 1919).
Strauss pioneered preventive health care in Pennsylvania and was the first president of the Community Health Center, which became a constituent of the Federation of Jewish Charities. In 1930, she became secretary of the committee on health centers for President Herbert Hoover’s Child Welfare Conference. She coauthored a study on child health centers emerging from that conference, which was published in 1932.
In 1937, at age forty-seven, Strauss entered the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and she received her law degree three years later. Filling out a Bryn Mawr alumna form in 1940, she answered yes to the question, “Do you administer the household?” and no to the question, “Is it your chief occupation?”
In 1943, Strauss coauthored with Edwin P. Rome, a prominent Philadelphia attorney, The Child and the Law in Pennsylvania, a survey of all laws regarding children and child welfare at that time. She became a lecturer in medical jurisprudence at the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia (now called the Medical College of Pennsylvania). During World War II, she handled the legal cases of servicemen through the Legal Aid Society in Philadelphia.
Strauss served on the board of the Public Charities Association of Pennsylvania. As a member of the board of directors of the Bryn Mawr College Summer School, she helped to establish several county nutrition clinics with Dr. Samuel Hamilton. She was also the director of the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Workers in Industry.
Lillian Laser Strauss died in her home in Elkins Park, a suburb of Philadelphia, on October 6, 1946, one week after suffering a heart attack. She had just finished writing a book dealing with medical legislation in Pennsylvania.
SELECTED WORKS BY LILLIAN LASER STRAUSS
The Child and the Law in Philadelphia, with Edwin P. Rome (1943); Child Health Centers: A Survey, with James Hall Mason Knox and Philip Van Ingen (1932); A Survey of Opportunities for Vocational Education in Pennsylvania, compiled with Meribah Delaplaine and Rosa Stein De Young (1929).
AJYB 48:501; Bryn Mawr College. Register of Alumnae and Former Students; Evening Bulletin, October 8, 1946; Philadelphia Inquirer, October 8, 1946; Philadelphia Record, October 8, 1946.
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Herskowitz, Linda. "Lillian Laser Strauss." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on August 22, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/strauss-lillian-laser>.