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Henry Street Settlement (1910)

Ed. Note: This description of Henry Street Settlement in 1910-1911 is largely copied from the Handbook of Settlements written by two settlement house pioneers: Robert Archey Woods and Albert J. Kennedy.  The handbook included the findings of a national survey of all the known settlements in existence in 1910 and was published by The Russell Sage Foundation of New York in 1911.


(Nurses’ Settlement)

265 (1895), 299–301 (I905) Henry Street

ESTABLISHED July, 1893, by Lillian D. Wald, who, moved by the conditions surrounding a sick woman of the East Side, upon whom she had called, proposed with Mary M. Brewster (later Mrs. Booth) ” to move into the neighborhood; to carry on volunteer nursing, and contribute our citizenship to what seemed an alien group in a so-called democratic community.” In looking for quarters the two nurses came upon the College Settlement, and for the months of July and August they lived at the Settlement House. In September they rented the top floor of a tenement house, and fortified with board of health badges, explored tenements and carried on such nursing and social work as came to their hands. After two years calls multiplied so fast that the house at 265 Henry Street was taken to provide accommodation for more nurses, and the present extension work began. Incorporated March 27, 1903, “for the usual settlement purposes, and also to establish a service of visiting nursing and to maintain convalescent and Fresh Air homes.” Supported by many gifts for special purposes. The household (board, servants, etc.) on co-operative plan.

NEIGHBORHOOD. First, the lower East Side, and later all sections of the city. Some neighborhood work also in the country where three of the vacation houses are open all the year, the director of each being identified with the life of her locality.


I. INVESTIGATIONS. An Investigation of Dispossessed Tenants, 1897 in cooperation with the University and College `Settlements); The Midwives of New York, published in Charities, January, 1907 (co-operation Union Settlement and the Neighborhood Workers Association); Investigation into Unemployment, published in Charities, February 29, 1908. Investigation of conditions surrounding babies boarded out in families by institutions; an informal investigation of children out of school because of physical defects, undertaken to show the need of proper feeding and school lunches; an investigation of one thousand school children who had obtained working papers at fourteen years of age and gone to work. This investigation to determine whether it would be wise to provide scholarships which would enable certain children who showed promise to remain in school until sixteen. Investigation leading to the publication of a directory of the Trade, Industrial and Art Schools of Greater New York, published by the settlement, May, 1909. Miss Wald was a member of the Mayor’s Pushcart Commission (report published by the city of New York, September 10, 1906); of the State Immigration Commission (report published by the state, April 5, 1909); and with one other member of this commission made an extended investigation of the conditions in the labor and construction camps throughout the state (report published in The Survey, January 1, 1910). Investigation of children’s street games, 1909; investigation of conditions surrounding working girls in department stores, factories and canneries, 1909; a study of festivals with their possibilities for settlement presentation (report published in Charities).


(1) Health — (a) Home Care –The residents have stood consistently for the adequate care of the sick in their homes. A system of visiting nursing has been established which now covers the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx. The nursing staff increased from 15 in 1900 to 47 in 1909; making calls upon 10,234 patients, and rendering first aid treatment to 16,192 persons that year. Established for the department of health a staff of nurses for the care of contagious diseases. Identified through the director of one of the country places with the District Nursing Association of Westchester County and has membership also in the Grangers’ Association of that county. (b) Convalescence — Maintains three convalescent houses: The Rest at Grand View-on-the-Hudson, New York; Reed Farm, Valley Cottage, N. Y. (for Italian patients); Echo Hill Farm, Yorktown Heights, N. Y. (where a limited number of delicate children are kept for an indefinite period or are partially adopted). Miss Wald is trustee of Loeb Convalescent Home and one of the residents is registrar. (c) Tuberculosis — The pioneer nurses in 1893, realizing the danger to the community from the ignorance of persons suffering from tuberculosis, secured the names of such persons applying for admission to hospitals. These, and others discovered by the staff, were visited; sputum cups and disinfectants were supplied; and instruction in hygiene provided. In March 1905, the department of health took up the work systematically, and the city nurses now carry on the plan of visitation and education. (d) Medical Inspection in Public Schools — The first residents of the settlement helped in establishing medical inspection in the public schools, bringing to the attention of the department of health school children desquamating from scarlet fever and with diphtheria patches on throats. Later the system of inspection seemed inadequate, as the children were sent home when found to be ill, and many tended to become truants because of this. The settlement proposed to demonstrate for the boards of health and education the value of the nurse with the physician, and in October, 1902, supplied the services of a nurse who supplemented the services of the medical examiners. At the end of one month the service was taken over by the city. The system has since been adopted in many cities in the United States and abroad. (e) Milk and Baby Hygiene — A trustee of the settlement supplies milk from his private dairy in Westchester County, and this is sold to the patients of the nurses, especially for infant feeding. Twice weekly, conferences with mothers are held at the settlement under the direction of two physicians who examine the babies brought to the class, prescribe the proper modification of the milk for each and give advice as to care. A nurse is detailed to the following up of these cases and instructs the mothers in the modification of the milk and in general care and hygiene of the baby and the home. (f) Cooperation with Insurance Companies — in June, 1909, the settlement proposed to a large insurance company the insurance of their policy holders for nursing as well as for death benefit, and in accordance with this plan a system was inaugurated that bids fair to be of enormous preventive and educational value, through the utilization of the huge machinery of the company to make the nurse’s service accessible to the policy holders. Other companies are adopting the plan.

(2) Housing. — The residents have from time to time testified before various tenement house commissions. The professional services of the staff have offered unexampled opportunity to observe conditions, to report violations of law, and to follow up the method of enforcement.

(3) Sanitation: Streets and Collection of Refuse — Members of the settlement have cooperated to educate the people and have worked with the street cleaning department in various matters, such as the removal of snow, prompt collection of garbage, lectures to the neighborhood, etc. Took an active part in the campaign against constructing an elevated railroad in a nearby street, advocating a subway instead, which alternative has been carried out.

(4) Play spaces.– Co-operated in the campaign for public recreation facilities. Its backyard playground (1895), utilizing three adjoining yards, was one of the earliest play spaces in its district. One of the first agencies to definitely organize and supervise play, bringing in the teaching of manual work, folk dancing, games, etc. Instrumental in securing Seward Park and Corlears Hook Park, and its residents now serve in the park department of New York City and on the executive committee of the Parks and Playgrounds Association of New York. In co-operation with the latter it maintains a playground at the Stillman House, its branch in the Negro section of the city; and during the summer the gymnasium of the settlement is also run as a playground in cooperation with the Parks and Playgrounds Association and the board of education.

(5) Public Schools. — Carried on with other agencies a continuous and successful campaign of education for more and better school buildings. Provided a formal study room, which has been adopted (according to the statement of Dr. Maxwell, Superintendent of Schools) in 63 school buildings. The practical house-keeping centers were first established in co-operation with the settlement. Several residents are on the local school boards of their districts and the head resident has participated in the campaign for school lunches and furnished some literature on the subject. The settlement gives the department of education rooms for a kindergarten and has provided quarters for physical work with a class of defectives. Administers a system of scholarships for children between fourteen and sixteen years of age. A resident follows each child’s school, home and social life. Forty-one children in elementary, trade, technical and art schools receive scholarships.

(6) Labor. — Residents early found themselves called upon to give vocal and literary expression to the hardships under which many of the young women among their neighbors labored; and were active in the first organization of the Women’s Trade Union League. Residents have testified before various legislative commissions; served on executive committees of the national and state child labor committees; organized a system of scholarships given to children to prolong the school life beyond the fourteenth year; and interested themselves in awakening public sentiment. Two residents serve on the Joint Board of Sanitary Control of the cloak and suit industry, and have had part in the investigation into heating, ventilation, fire protection, sanitation, etc., made by the trade.

(7) Politics.–Though not formally identified with any party, the settlement has always taken an active part on the so-called “moral issue campaigns.” Members of the household and the clubs serve as speakers, watchers at the polls, distributers of literature, etc. Advocates the principle of woman’s suffrage, and some of its members are actively connected with the movement.

(8) Economic. — Largely responsible for the establishment of Clinton Hall, a building in its immediate neighborhood erected by the Social Halls Association, of which the head worker of the settlement is president. Clinton Hall is equipped with a dance hall, roof garden, lodge and meeting rooms, billiard room, bowling alley, etc., and is run on a strictly business basis, but under thoroughly respectable and decent conditions. At the present time it is the headquarters for twenty-one different trade unions.

(9) Morals. — Shared in investigating social conditions and has at times been able to inquire into and report many matters to the police department, district attorneys, Committee of Fifteen, and other organizations.

III. CO-OPERATION WITH OTHER AGENCIES. Members of the settlement are connected in advisory and official capacity with settlements, labor, charitable, health, recreational, educational, political and other institutions and movements.


(1) City. — In New York City the settlement has been formally identified with the department of health, department of education, department of parks, the Mayor’s Pushcart Commission (1905).

(2) State. — The head worker has served as a member of Governor Hughes’ Immigration Commission (1908 and 1909), and others of the household are actively connected with state regents, state department of education in that branch relating to the examining and registration of nurses.

(3) National — The head worker originated and has been actively identified with the movement for a federal children’s bureau.

V. GENERAL PROPAGANDA. The house has been notable in its public influence. Settlements have been established in other communities through its inspiration, and many of its forms of work have been adopted in other cities. Through its head worker and residents it has been allied with many public movements, and it has been able to carry its philosophy to many persons through speech and pen.

MAINTAINS a district nursing service covering Manhattan and the Bronx; four first aid rooms in the main house and three of its branches, where burns, wounds, and ulcers are dressed, and attention is given to such patients as are able to come to the room; follow-up work from school, hospital, asylum and dispensary; seven country places, three of which are open all the year (described in another section); one milk dispensary with conference for mothers (these conferences are held twice a week under the direction of two physicians, and a nurse is detailed to follow up the cases and teach the modification of the milk in the homes); three kindergartens; upwards of 125 clubs for both sexes and all ages; three libraries (one for reference, two circulating); two playgrounds (one indoors and one outdoors with directors in charge); a gymnasium for boys, girls and young men; a school shop in which there are a limited number of apprentices who are taught fine handwork (the product is sold); two carpentry shops; several cooking classes; several dancing classes; penny provident banks at the main house and three branches.

FORMER LOCATIONS. Jefferson St., Sept., 1893-JuIy, 1895; 279 E Broadway, 1893; 312 E. 78th St., 1896-1906;  9 Montgomery St., Summer, 1901-May, 1906.

RESIDENTS. Women 41, men 5.

VOLUNTEERS. Women 77,men 23.

HEAD RESIDENT. Lillian D. Wald, 1893 –.



232 East Seventy-ninth Street

ESTABLISHED April, 1896, in a two-story house at 312 East Seventy-eighth Street, and moved in 1906 to 232 East Seventy-ninth Street.

NEIGHBORHOOD. The East Side. The people are Bohemians, Hungarians, French, Irish, Jews, Germans, and Italians. There is much congestion, some poverty, and great need of social opportunity.

MAINTAINS nursing service; bank; woman’s club; classes in calisthenics; story hour; dancing; clubs for young people and children; parties and entertainments. The house is primarily a home, and the work individual and intensive. The head worker is a member of the local school board and Charity Organization Society.

HEAD RESIDENTS. Jennie Whitelaw, 1896 –1901; Susan Bishop, 1901–1905; Margaret Anderson, 1905b –.


862 Cauldwell Avenue

ESTABLISHED October, 1906, in an apartment.

NEIGHBORHOOD. The Bronx, a residential quarter of people of the lower middle class living in apartments or small wooden houses.

MAINTAINS. The medical service is the most important, people being very glad to pay for the nursing service. Much social work is done with individuals, and through institutions. There is a woman’s club and much informal friendliness. The head worker is a member of the Charity Organization Society.

HEAD RESIDENT. Harriet Chichester, 1906 –.



Center, 205 West Sixtieth Street

ESTABLISHED December, 1906, in a neighborhood flat.

NEIGHBORHOOD. The neighborhood is a residential quarter of boarding houses and tenements. The people are Irish and Negroes.

MAINTAINS nursing service (begun in 1905); penny provident bank; circulating library; classes in city history, folk dancing, carpentry, domestic science and sewing; men’s civic club; playground and social clubs for all ages and with various aims. Summer Work. — Open air playground.

FORMER LOCATIONS. 154 W. 62nd St., 1905 ff; 252 W. 62nd St., May, 1907 — Nov., 1908; 205 W. 60th St., Nov., 1908 –

HEADWORKER. Miss Minton.

Source: This description of Henry Street Settlement in 1910-1911 is taken from the HANDBOOK OF SETTLEMENTS written by two settlement house pioneers: Robert Archey Woods and Albert J. Kennedy.  The book included the findings of a national survey of all the known settlements in existence in 1910 and was published by The Russell Sage Foundation of New York in 1911.

2 Replies to “Henry Street Settlement (1910)”

  1. The Henry Street Settlement was a music school for immigrant children where most of the professional musicians in the major orchestras as well as Broadway musicals and radio in the first half of the twentieth century learned to play their instruments.

    My father, Harry Hammer, was one of them and had a distingue career as a violinist as a result of that free education for primarily Jewish children in the ghettos of the lower East side in NYC in the early part of the past century.

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