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Lillian Wald collection

Identifier: MS-053

Scope and Contents

This collection consists primarily of correspondence between Lillian Wald and various people in her personal and professional life. This collection documents her work at the Henry Street Settlement house and various projects she was working on. It also includes personal notes to her nephews and friends. Also included in this collection is a scrapbook/book of letters from friends and neighbors in 1933 presented to Wald on her sixty-sixth birthday and the fortieth anniversary of the Henry Settlement House. It includes personal notes and photographs of Henry Street and its residents.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1905 - 1956

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Lillian Wald was born in 1867 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father, Max Wald, moved his optical goods dealership to Dayton and then to Rochester in search of better opportunities and Wald grew up in upstate New York. Initially trained as a nurse, she left nursing after a year to become a doctor. In the course of her medical training, she became intimately aware of the deplorable health conditions on Manhattan's Lower East Side and she made it her mission to bring public health services to impoverished neighborhoods. In 1895 she founded the Nurses Settlement at 265 Henry Street.

At Henry Street, Wald pioneered the field of public health nursing, working in the neighborhood and treating patients regardless of their ability to pay. Over time, Wald broadened her activities at Henry Street, seeking to attack the root causes of poor health. Similar to Jane Addams' Hull House in Chicago, the Henry Street Settlement hosted social and cultural events, advocated for educational opportunities and expanded green space in the neighborhood, and instituted programs to mitigate against poverty and disease.

Wald's formal career as a social reformer lasted until 1933 when poor health forced her to resign from the board of the Henry Street Settlement. In her retirement, she continued to advocate for her causes, including bringing awareness to the rising tide of antisemitism in Europe. She died in 1940 after a long illness.


.417 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



Connecticut College holds approximately one half linear foot of manuscript material, including correspondence and a scrapbook/book of letters presented to Wald on her birthday and upon her retirement by workers, clients, and friends of the Henry Street Settlement.

Other Finding Aids

Sigificant collections of materials on Lillian D. Wald can be found at Columbia University Libraries and the New York Public Library.

Custodial History

Hazel Johnson, librarian at Connecticut College, reached out to friends and colleagues to collect letters from Lillian Wald to build the American Woman Collection at Connecticut College. Her central contact was Aaron Rabinowitz who donated items in the collection and sent Johnson a list of contacts that would serve as potential donors to the collection.

Guide to the Lillian Wald collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Linda Lear Center for Special Collections and Archives Repository

Connecticut College
270 Mohegan Ave
New London CT 06320 United States