Natalie Goldstein Heineman, a friend of children, is born

March 16, 1913

As a social worker for the city of Chicago, Natalie Goldstein Heineman often climbed tenement stairs during the Depression to help local families in need.  Those steps were the first of many she took to care for young people living with the devastating effects of poverty and social injustice.

In the words of Pastora San Juan Cafferty, “She considered every child a precious being who deserved every opportunity to fully realize his or her potential.”

Born on Chicago’s South Side, she graduated from the University of Chicago in 1933 with a degree in Social Service Administration.  At that time, she had already met her husband-to-be on a blind date when she was 17 and he was 16.  The marriage of Ben W. Heineman , the lawyer who became a railroad executive and civic leader,  and Natalie Goldstein, the advocate for the dispossessed, would last nearly 75 years.

In 1966, Natalie Goldstein Heineman became the first woman president of the Chicago Child Care Society, providing community-based education and social service programs to vulnerable children and their families. Later in her career she became the president of the Child Welfare League of America, which ensures the safety, permanence, and wellbeing of children, youth, and their families by advancing public policy.  The CWLA honored her service by creating the Natalie Heineman Award upon her retirement.

In 1966, after many years on the “Board of Lady Managers” of the Chicago Child Care Society, she became its first woman president. She guided the society, the oldest existing child welfare agency in Illinois, through a major reorganization and was recognized on its 150th anniversary for her “extraordinary leadership.” She was also one of the first women to serve on the national board of the United Way of America.

In an age when women were often only a reflection of their husbands’ civic leadership, Natalie Heineman played an independent role as an insistent voice advancing child welfare. She was a voice for children at every level of government.

As the Child Care Association of Illinois in 1980 wrote in tribute to her, she was a “friend of children in need of attention and love, and an informed and persistent advocate…. You have never lost sight of the needs of a particular child as you have moved steadfastly to open ways to improve the lives of all children.”

Source: “Natalie Goldstein Heineman,” Chicago Examiner, March 7, 2010.


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Natalie Heineman.
Photograph courtesy of Ben Heineman, Sr.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Natalie Goldstein Heineman, a friend of children, is born." (Viewed on May 28, 2023) <>.


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