Today we celebrate the birthday of Lillian Wald (1867-1940), founder of Henry Street Settlement on New York’s Lower East Side as well as the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. Wald was a second-generation German Jewish immigrant who developed close associations with Jewish New York even as she consistently dismissed claims that her work emerged from a fundamentally Jewish calling.

In her book, Lillian Wald: A Biography, Marjorie Feld examines the crucial and complex significance of Wald’s ethnicity to her life’s work. In addition, by studying the Jewish community’s response to Wald throughout her public career from 1893 to 1933, Feld explores the changing landscape of identity politics in the first half of the twentieth century.

To mark Wald’s birthday, as well as her own, Feld writes about her study of Wald’s complex life, as well as the ways in which their lives have–and have not–become intertwined in the process of her academic study.

Below we link to Feld’s post at the blog of the Jewish Women’s Archive. Enjoy!–beth

I remember precisely where I was in the Glenn G. Bartle library—what part of the stacks, which corner, what bench—when I realized that Lillian Wald and I shared the same birthday, on March 10th.   I was a junior at State University of New York at Binghamton, enrolled in a U.S. women’s history course that was gradually changing the direction of my life.  It was here that I discovered Lillian Wald, a Jewish woman who was deeply involved in American Progressives’ campaigns for immigrant, women’s, and civil rights, for public health and world peace.

Read the full post at Jewesses with Attitude, the blog of the Jewish Women’s Archive.