Lillian Wald originated the public health nursing service and the Henry Street Settlement to meet the needs of the poor in New York City’s Lower East Side. During the early twentieth century, this outstanding nurse and social activist was a dynamic force for social reform, creating widely-adopted models of public health and social service programs.
Wald’s nursing education in New York showed her that tenement residents lacked health care, and so she organized the Henry Street Nurses Settlement (l893), the first public health nursing program in the nation. Wald went on to help organize other public health nursing programs in universities and for organizations, including the American Red Cross. She was the first president of the National Organization of Public Health Nurses, a professional group she helped to create. Recognizing that the urban poor had great needs beyond health care, Wald expanded Henry Street services to include social services, especially those benefitting children. She led the charge to abolish child labor, and helped secure the creation of the federal Children’s Bureau in 1912.