Did you know that Lillian Wald founded the Henry Street Settlement in 1893?
Lillian Wald arrived in Manhattan in 1889 to attend the New York City Hospital School of Nursing. An Ohio-native, Wald earned her nursing degree at the age of 22 and decided to further her work in healthcare by enrolling in New York Women's Medical College to become a doctor.
While organizing a home nursing program to meet the needs of Manhattan's late nineteenth-century impoverished immigrant population, Wald visited the Lower East Side and witnessed the terrible conditions faced by the city's poor. She was so affected by her experience that she decided to devote her life to providing health and social services to the city's neediest, never completing her doctoral degree. In 1893, she moved to the Lower East Side, where she worked to establish the Henry Street Settlement.
Credited as the founder of public health nursing in the United States, Wald pioneered the social service system and established the Visiting Nurse Service of New York with fellow nurse Mary Brewster. In the spring of 1895, Wald moved to 265 Henry Street with a staff of six nurses to provide health and hygiene to impoverished immigrant men, women, and children at the Settlement.
By 1906, under Wald's leadership, Henry Street Settlement's nursing staff had grown to 27. By 1916, thanks to the support of lifelong friend and Henry Street benefactor Jacob Schiff and a variety of fundraising efforts, the Settlement boasted 250 nurses and offered healthcare, education, housing, and employment assistance, as well as recreational activities, to thousands of patients.
Wald continued to lead the Henry Street Settlement until 1930, when she retired from her position as director. During that time, Wald -- an ardent humanitarian -- also worked to reform national and international health, educational, and political spheres. She helped form the Women's Trade Union League, the National Organization for Public Health Nursing, and Columbia University's School of Nursing, and worked with President Theodore Roosevelt to create the Federal Children's Bureau. A suffragist, Wald also campaigned for women's right to vote and worked for peace during World War I by joining the Woman's Peace Party (WPP) and helping to establish the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
In 1922, Wald was recognized for her contributions and was named one of the 12 greatest living American women by the New York Times. She later received the Lincoln Medallion for her work as an "Outstanding Citizen of New York," in 1936, and is credited throughout history as one of the country's most influential woman leaders.
Wald died at her Connecticut home in September 1940, but her legacy at Lower Manhattan's historic Henry Street Settlement lives on. Throughout the twentieth century, the Settlement established new facilities in Lower Manhattan to provide progressive services designed to meet the changing needs of the city's diverse poor population.
Today, the Henry Street Settlement is a non-profit organization that continues to offer social services and arts programming to more than 100,000 New Yorkers each year at 18 locations throughout the Lower East Side, including 263, 265, and 267 Henry Street -- the original buildings established by Wald. It remains one of the nation's oldest settlement houses.
To learn more about the Henry Street Settlement call (212) 766-9200.