|New York City street children, c. 1908|
Born this day in 1862: Hannah Bachman Einstein (1862–1929), champion of working mothers, widows, and children whose advocacy led to the establishment of municipal, state, and national boards and associations for child welfare.
Einstein was born Hannah Bachman to German Jewish immigrants in New York City. She married manufacturer William Einstein in 1881. The couple had two children.
Einstein became deeply involved with Jewish charities. In 1896 she became a trustee of the United Hebrew Charities of New York, in 1897 she was named president of the Temple Emanu-El Sisterhood, and in 1899 was named president of the New York Federation of Sisterhoods.
Soon Einstein realized that the needs of the poor were beyond the scope of private charities. To further her understanding of social welfare problems and solutions she took courses at Columbia University and the New York School of Philanthropy. Einstein took a special interest in widowed women and their children. She firmly believed that children belonged with their mothers, but at that time, children of widows often ended up institutionalized. Einstein argued that widowed women should receive government “pensions”—which would free them to raise their own children.
Through Einstein’s sustained efforts, New York passed the Child Welfare Law of 1915. The law established local child welfare boards to oversee public aid to widows and their children. Einstein served as chair of New York City’s board from its establishment in 1915 until her death in 1929. New York served as model for similar boards throughout the nation. Einstein became head of the New York State Association of Child Welfare Boards and founded the National Union of Public Child Welfare Officers. Within 5 years nearly every state had established public child welfare.
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