LES History Month 2020 >> Histories of Public Health & Community Resilience
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In the early 20th century, New York, like many other cities, sought to combat infant mortality with city-wide cultural events like Baby Week. The Lower East Side was a focus for this mix of education, celebration, and cash prizes for healthy babies.
In 1901, New York City opened its first public bath, the Rivington Bath House, at 326 Delancey Street. The bath house, which was free, featured indoor and outdoor bathing pools, 45 ‘spray baths’ (showers) for men and 22 for women, and became such a success that long lines nearly caused a riot. At the time of its construction, a survey found there was only one bathtub for every 79 families living in the LES.
In crisis, we simultaneously see the best of human care for others and the worst of the systems in place, and of what our social, healthcare, and governmental systems are capable of. In such dire situations, a renewed culture of care—and caring for culture—is more crucial than ever.
The Henry Street Settlement is America’s oldest settlement house. Founded in 1893 by American nurse and social worker, Lillian D. Wald, at a time where few public assistance resources existed. Since then it has served as a community center and a public resource to those settling and living in the Lower East Side.
Carmen Pabón, La Madrina De Loisaida
Carmen Pabón called herself “a social worker without a license.” With only an eighth grade education, she advocated for those in Loisaida: drug addicts, homeless people, HIV positive residents, and so many more; who at the time were facing huge obstacles and left often ostracized by society. Pabón gave them the voice and care that they needed and deserved.