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2020 Home Care Nursing Research Award

The purpose of the Award is to provide seed money, pilot funding, or total funding for research with promising contributions to home care nursing. Read for more information.

Editorial: The Legacy of Lillian Wald

While browsing through a used book store many years ago, to my delight I found a 1st edition of Lillian Wald's book, The House on Henry Street (Wald, 1915). The commentary by Marilyn Harris about Lillian Wald in this issue prompted me to retrieve it from my book shelf. Lillian Wald began the book by describing how she came to found the settlement house on Henry Street. Like many of us, she began her career in a hospital and knew little of what happened when her patients returned home. She explained that she had been asked by a philanthropic organization to teach home nursing to the people of the lower east side of Manhattan – a very densely populated area of immigrants living in overcrowded and unsuitable living quarters.

Wald did as she was asked and developed a home nursing course, offering it in an old building that would later come to be known as the House on Henry Street. She had no intention or desire to minister to people in the community, but when a little girl approached her, and asked for help for her mother who had recently delivered a baby, Lillian Wald followed her to a two-room tenement flat which housed the family of seven as well as an unstated number of boarders. She described the abhorrent conditions in which they lived, but while providing care was surprised to learn that they were not "degraded human beings" and stated, "as miserable as their state was, they were not without ideals for the family life, and for society, of which they were so unloved and unlovely a part" (p. 7). This is a sentiment that will resonate with home healthcare providers.

We are a society divided by socio-economic status, but as home healthcare providers, we often cross that divide. It is a privilege to provide care in the natural setting of the home, as did Lillian Wald. It is here that we can witness the strength of families and communities, the desire of people to be self-sufficient and to pursue the "American dream". It is often stated that people need to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" - but what if they have no boots? In many instances, home healthcare provides the boots, so that people have bootstraps to pull up. Lillian Wald recognized this in 1915, and her legacy lives on through all of you who have chosen home healthcare.

There is a wonderful virtual exhibit of The House on Henry Street available at https://www.thehouseonhenrystreet.org/exhibition. Presented in six chapters, it tells the story of Henry Street from its beginnings to present day. I highly recommend it.

Reference

 Wald, L. (1915). The house on Henry Street. Henry Holt and Company: New York.


Kind regards,
Maureen Anthony

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