Theses Master's

From the World to Henry Street: Tracing the Hidden Narrative of Women in Public Health Through Spatial Mapping

Zhao, Jieli

The visiting nurses of the Henry Street Settlement during the early 20th century provided care and medical services to residents across the immigrant and lower-income neighborhoods in New York City. While the organization’s well-known collective identity revolved around the American middle class’s cultural environment of “social betterment,” many individual nurses and staff from vastly diverse social backgrounds and cultures came to pursue a career at Henry Street for different reasons. Historical research drawing from existing archives has revealed these individuals' aspirations to achieve formal medical education, which contributed to the increased diversity of the Settlement’s and the City’s public health professionals. By uncovering these hidden narratives and untold ambitions, this thesis seeks to document the stories of how these individual women navigated the city and forged close relationships with their patients through continuous efforts of outreach and the commitment to build trust with the communities they served.

This thesis introduces the methodology exploration of “narrative-guided spatial mapping” to graphically interpret archival data and construct narrative themes to trace the life journeys of the individual nurses by focusing on the tangible and social environments they inhabited. These mapping studies not only recall site-specific memories during their practice at Henry Street but also the recollections of those who encountered and engaged with the nurses to remind us today that they were a presence that, although no longer existing, informed and became a part of the city’s public memory. By mapping the nurses’ experiences back onto the urban landscape, this thesis seeks to help recognize and preserve their claim as part of the historical heritage of both the Henry Street Settlement and the city of New York.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Bentel, Paul L.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
May 23, 2024