NEIGHBOR TO THE WORLD: The Story of Lillian Wald by Irvin Block

NEIGHBOR TO THE WORLD: The Story of Lillian Wald

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In her maturity, Lillian Wald's involvement with the Henry Street Settlement was her whole life but it was a whole life, enlisting the resident workers, her wealthy friends and her cosmopolitan acquaintances in the betterment of her Lower East Side neighbors and their like; that such a commitment can be anything but constricting is a prime lesson of the book. Impersonal issues become personal efforts: for public health nursing, which she pioneered, helped introduce into schools and legitimize; for play space for city children (the Henry Street backyard was dubbed ""the Bunker Hill of playgrounds""); for special classes for handicapped children, country and study refuges for all; for a federal Children's Bureau; and for social reform generally, which she soon recognized as fundamental. Proving that, as she proclaimed, ""a small group having profound and selfless interest in the going world is not useless,"" she joined with other anti-militarists to avert war with Mexico in 1916; their attempts to keep America out of World War I (which included a women's peace march) were less successful but they formed the nucleus of the Foreign Policy Association and its quest for permanent peace. One sees the effects of Lillian Wald's ample German-Jewish upbringing, glimpses the tempering of her heart by her mind, senses that here was a woman to conjure with. If her personality is obscured by the author's exalted homilies, her achievements come to merit them, and there are compensating exposures of immigrant life, of the settlement house movement itself, of Wilson vis a vis T.R., of war agitators and agitation. In any case, and in all respects, it is more to the point that the Winifred Wise fictionalization.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1969
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell