Advocacy & Activism, Health Equity, Nursing History, School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Looking for Lillian Wald


Earlier in the year, I wrote a blog post about one of my newest students who was saving food that was served in school to bring home to her family. The 4-year-old girl, a recent immigrant from El Salvador, was storing food in her pants pockets instead of eating at school. Here is a link to the blog post: Pockets Filled With Chicken and Other Social Determinants of Health

I was privileged to see this little girl welcome the guests for the end of year celebration as the students moved from preschool to kindergarten. The student blossomed from a quiet little girl who stuffed her pants pockets with food to a vibrant 5-year-old that spoke to the entire audience of several hundred visitors. It was a joyous celebration, filled with a room of families that have struggled to come to America fleeing countries ravaged by violence, poverty, and unstable governments. Many of my parents are undocumented or are anxiously waiting for results of their asylum hearings, so to witness them watching their precious children “graduate” from preschool in a ceremony filled with pomp and circumstance was especially poignant.

In the immortal words of Nelson Mandela, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”  Now, who have we become as a nation? Stand up for children, no matter how they have arrived in our country, they deserve the best of who we are, not the worst. Remember my student, who came here with the weight of the world on her little shoulders, feeling responsible to feed her family by saving food served to her at school. She ended her first year in this country, leading her class in welcoming the guests to the graduation celebration.

The NYT published this article about a mysterious guest book found in the attic of NY playhouse. It turns out the book was from the registry of the Henry Street Settlement House, the home and workplace of Lillian Wald. Let’s embrace the lessons in activism from Lillian, our world needs it now as much as it did in the early part of the last century. 

The Mystery of This Dusty Book, Signed by Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt

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