Friday, October 26, 2012

Louisa Lee Schuyler

Born this day in 1837: Louisa Lee Schuyler (1837–1926), welfare worker who organized public welfare services and promoted legislation to aid the poor, disabled, and mentally ill.

Louisa Lee Schuyler was born into a distinguished and civic-minded New York family (she was a descendent of Revolutionary War general Philip Schuyler and of Alexander Hamilton). During the Civil War Schuyler’s mother co-founded the Woman’s Central Association of Relief as an auxiliary of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Schulyer was installed as chair of the committee of correspondence. In that role she showed herself to be a dynamo of bureaucratic efficiency. Under her direction, the organization grew into the largest and most important auxiliary of the Commission.
After the war Schuyler applied her organizational skills to improve New York’s public welfare services. In 1872 she founded the State Charities Aid Association (SCAA). SCAA engaged groups of citizen volunteers to inspect and evaluate institutions of public charity. The committee members hailed from high society, and as such wielded great influence. They used their findings to suggest legislative reforms and bring much needed public attention to conditions in these institutions.
Schuyler was especially interested in the treatment of the mentally ill. She lobbied extensively for the passage of legislation to remove the mentally ill from poor houses and private charities, where they languished under the most minimal of custodial care, and to place them instead in public hospitals, where the would received treatment and rehabilitation. Schuyler also established a training school for nurses at Bellevue Hospital in 1873.
In 1907 Schuyler was shocked to learn of the number of children who suffered from preventable blindness. The following year she brought together leaders from SCAA, the Russell Sage Foundation, the American Medical Association, the New York Association for the Blind, and city and state health departments to address the issue. By 1915 the group formally organized as the National Committee for the Prevention of Blindness.
Schuyler was the recipient of many awards and accolades during her lifetime, including . In 2000 SCAA changed its name to Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy in her honor.

In Other News:
Happy Birthday to the Queen of Gospel Song, Mahalia Jackson (1911–1972)!

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