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Sun, 03.10.1867

Lillian Wald, Activist, and Educator

Lillian Wald

*Lillian Wald was born on this date in 1867. She was a white Jewish-American civil rights activist, health worker, and educator.

From Cincinnati, Ohio, Wald became a nurse and was inspired by the work of Jane Adams and Ellen Starr at Hull House in Chicago. She joined Mary Brewster to establish the Henry Street Settlement in New York City in 1893. The Settlement expanded its range of services to meet the local community's needs. This included nursing, the establishment of clubs, a savings bank, a library, and vocational training for young people.

By 1903, Wald was organizing 18 district nursing service centers that overall treated 4,500 patients in New York. Over the next few years, Wald promoted building public playgrounds and cultural institutions in working-class areas. Wald was an active campaigner for civil rights and insisted that all Henry Street classes were racially integrated. In 1909, she helped to establish the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  She also participated in the protests against the film Birth of a Nation, which celebrated the Ku Klux Klan and its belief in white supremacy.

Committed to anti-violence, Wald and others led a parade of 1,200 women down Fifth Avenue in New York on August 29, 1914, to protest against the First World War. Wald was also a member of the Woman’s Peace Party (WPP) and, after the war, helped establish the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).   She campaigned for socialist candidates and was closely associated with left-wing radicals such as Emma Goldman.  As a result, she became a target of the Red Scare campaign in 1919.

Wald wrote several books about her activities, including House on Henry Street (1915) and Windows on Henry Street (1934). Lillian Wald died in Westport, Connecticut, on September 1, 1940.

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