Wald, Lillian D.


Public health/visiting nurse pioneer, founder of New York City’s celebrated Henry Street Settlement


Autograph ID: 3598
Condition: Very good
Description: “(1867–1940) Cincinnati-born German-Jewish nurse, social worker, public health official, author-editor- publisher, activist for peace, women’s, children’s and civil rights; founder of American community nursing. In 1878, moved with her family to Rochester, NY. Graduated from New York Hospital Training School for Nurses 1891, then took courses at the Woman’s Medical College. In 1893 after working at the New York Juvenile Asylum, she started a home class on nursing for poor immigrant families on the Lower East Side of New York City and began to care for sick residents of the area as a visiting nurse. In 1893 she coined the term “public health nurse” to describe nurses whose work is integrated into the public community. Wald extended her mission as founder of the Henry Street Settlement that later attracted the attention of prominent Jewish philanthropist Jacob Schiff who provided her with help. By 1906 she had 27 nurses on staff, and had attracted broader financial support; by 1913 the staff had grown to 92 people. Wald worked in this area for 40 years. She authored “The House on Henry Street” (1911) followed by “Windows on Henry Street” (1934). Wald is regarded as the founder of visiting nursing in the US & Canada. The Henry Street Settlement expanded into the Visiting Nurse Service of New York City. As an advocate for nursing in public schools her ideas led to the New York Board of Health’s organizing and running the 1st public nursing system in the world. First president of the National Organization for Public Health Nursing, established nursing insurance partnership with Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. that became a model for many other corporate projects, suggested a national health insurance plan, and helped found Columbia University’s School of Nursing. Wald taught women how to cook and sew, provided recreational activities for families, and helped found the Women’s Trade Union League in 1903. In 1915, Wald founded the Henry Street Neighborhood Playhouse to serve as a cultural center. She lobbied for laws against child labor, to allow all children to attend school. She helped establish the US Children’s Bureau, helped President Theodore Roosevelt create the Federal Children’s Bureau, and advocated for education of the mentally disabled. She insisted that all Henry Street classes be racially integrated and, in 1909, was a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); the 1st major public conference to create the NAACP opened with a meeting at the Henry Street Settlement. Wald organized NYC campaigns for suffrage, marched to protest US entry into WW I, joined the Women’s Peace Party and helped establish the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In 1915 she was elected president of the newly American Union Against Militarism (AUAM) and was involved with the AUAM’s daughter organizations, the Foreign Policy Organization and the American Civil Liberties Union. The New York Times named Wald as one of the 12 greatest living American women in 1922. The Lillian Wald Houses on Avenue D in Manhattan were named for her. The Henry Street Settlement and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York continue the work she started more than 100 years ago.

TLS on her 7 x 6 “House on the Pond/Saugatuck” letterhead, Westport, Ct., November 23 1936, to S. J. Woolf, NYC. Wald thanks portraitist Woolf for looking up a sketch of her, invites him to visit her in Connecticut (“It is a lovely part and I wish I could give you a welcome to this sweet little estate. Just now I gaze upon wonderful white ducks that are quackless, buyt lend interest and drama to the little pond which I can see from my window”), and adds her interest in Woolf’s sketches in the (New York) Times. S. J. Woolf (1880-1948) Graphic artist, journalist, illusrator, born into a NY family long active in the arts. Studied at the Art Students League and at the National Academy of Design. Developed reputation as a portraitist, primarily drawing celebrities for Collier’s, and, beginning in 1923, combined his portraits with his written accounts of his “personality interviews” for the New York Times. Woolf also served as a special correspondent during both world wars.”

Type: Letter

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