Lisa Levenstein weighs in on health care, government involvement & “Old Blockley”

Below is an excerpt of an op-ed piece that Lisa Levenstein wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer about government involvement in health care and the Philadelphia General Hospital. She uses “Old Blockley,” as it was often called, as an example of a a successful public hospital that treated everyone with compassion. Levenstein is an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the author of A Movement Without Marches: African American Women and the Politics of Poverty in Postwar Philadelphia (2009).


Below is a selection of the entire article by Levenstein:

Americans looking to improve their health-care system – and wondering about the implications of more government involvement – can find valuable lessons in Philadelphia’s recent past. In the decades following World War II, Philadelphia had a successful public hospital that enjoyed widespread public support and an excellent national reputation.

Philadelphia General Hospital was affectionately known as “Old Blockley,” having succeeded the Blockley Almshouse in what was once Blockley Township, now University City. It served city employees and patients who were indigent or could not get care elsewhere . . . At a time when our nation faces hard choices about the kind of health care we want, this is an important example of government-funded health care that worked. It’s also a reminder that the public has historically supported government expenditures on high-quality, effective treatment provided as an entitlement for all.

To read this article in full at the Philadelphia Inquirer, go here. To hear what Levenstein had to say on the State of Things on Aug. 19th about women in poverty, go here.



  1. Dear Ms. Levenstein,
    I am writing to you from Dayton, OH. I am taking a college course for seniors in Memoir Writing. This weekend I am working on a memoir about my work at PGH beginning in 1972. I was hired as an Information Officer for PGH where I worked with the press and did annual reports, etc. It was a time of struggle for the hospital, but so many wonderful things were going on at that time. I loved the hospital, and only left in 1976 to have my first child. Writing the memoir brought back so many memories to me–and I googled to see why PGH was called “Old Blockley”–I didn’t remember this –and got your article. What you have written is a tribute to what PGH did–and so relevant to what is happening today with health care. I will share some of what you have written with my class.
    Sincerely, Elaine Madden

  2. Dear Ms. Madden,

    Thank you for sharing your memories. It has been a great pleasure to receive numerous messages from people like you, who worked at PGH and remember it vividly and extremely fondly. I look forward to your memoir and hope that you will enjoy the chapter in my book that focuses on the hospital.

    Lisa Levenstein

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