The Fruits of Her Hands: Jewish Women and Social Welfare, 1819-1920
Introduction Religion Orphans Health Care Settlements Music
Health Care

Julia Gans Arnold, President, The Jewish maternity Home 1899

In an effort to meet the gynecological, obstetric, and pediatric needs of indigent and immigrant women, Esther Amram and female members of the Anshe Emeth Synagogue met on November 30, 1873 and formed the Ezrath Nashim (Helping Women) Society to "aid and assist poor Jewish women during confinement." Initially, the Society acted on a personal level, visiting individuals at home to assist with their health care needs during pregnancy. However, the informal system could not adequately meet the growing demands of the late nineteenth century. The society responded by expanding its Board of Managers, buying a permanent property at 534 Spruce Street, and acquiring a new name, the Jewish Maternity Home. By 1895, the Home added a Nurses' Training School, a Seaside Home for Invalid Women and Children, a Nursery, and free obstetric services. The Jewish Maternity Home provided recent mothers with a place to stay and nursery care for their newborns. The Home's overriding philosophy encouraged women to stay under a doctor's supervision for as long as possible after giving birth. Patients on average stayed for two weeks before returning to rigors of work and family. Almost thirty-eight percent of the women
admitted had five or more children at home. The demographic makeup of patients indicated that ninety-five percent of the patients were foreign born and ninety percent came from Russia.
Jewish Maternity Home, circa 1900
Women continued to take an active part in running the Jewish Maternity Home and served on both the managerial board and medical staff. When the Board of Managers expanded from seven to sixteen members, the bylaws stipulated that at least ten remain women. During a time when the majority of medical colleges refused to admit female candidates (the notable exception being the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania), in 1898 almost half of the medical staff were women. The doctors included Sarah Vasen, Rosalie Blitzstein (a daughter of the owner of the Blitzstein Bank), Clara Dercum, Helen Kirshbaum, Eleanor Jones, and Anna Broomal. The Jewish Maternity Home soon outgrew its facilities and in 1901 bought the next door property on Spruce Street.