because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lillian Wald

When Vassar College turned down her application for admittance in the late 1800's because she was only sixteen, Lillian Wald just went to nurse's training instead. It was a life changing and even historical decision. Undaunted by any challenge, Wald's work with the children at an orphanage convinced her that she needed to start providing services -- medical and otherwise -- for immigrants in New York City, most of whom were living in abject poverty.

She taught nutrition and cooking, sewing and emergency medical procedures. She provided recreational activities for the children. And she even moved into the neighborhood to be more accessible, coining the term "public health nurse." Over time, she got so much attention for her work that philanthropists started throwing money at her and by 1913, Wald was supervising a team of ninety-two people.

Writing a pair of books about her work helped to publicize its importance and effectiveness and further helped her to fund it, as well as her other interest: organizing around labor rights and child labor issues. She lobbied for children to go to school rather than work. She lobbied for rights for African-Americans and racially integrated all classes at her Henry Street Settlement House. She helped to organize the women's suffrage movement in New York City, marched against entering World War I, and helped to establish both the NAACP and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. No wonder The New York Times named her one of the twelve greatest living American women in 1922, but getting her to stand still long enough to accept the award must have been quite a trick!

No comments:

Post a Comment