Healing the Sick City: Local Guides, Visiting Nurses, and Vernaculars of Pain on New York's Lower East Side

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Lillian Wald brought public health nursing to New York City’s congested Lower East Side in summer 1893, where she recorded tenement dwellers’ suffering from cuts, burns, breaks, deaths, illness, and childbirth. Together, nurses traveling streets, alleys, rooftops, and hallways, alongside dwellers acting as “local guides,” inaugurated vernacular mappings. Drawing on letters Wald wrote to her benefactor, Jacob Schiff, in July 1893, describing visiting, cleaning, healing, and connecting, this article uncovers a spatial dimension to pain that invites historians of urban America to discover the sick city.

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Journal of Urban History

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