History: Heroes Of Healthcare

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Lilian Walker (1866-1955)

When five new cases of infantile paralysis were reported in Port Washington in August of 1916, the community set up a portable isolation hospital on the grounds of the Goodwin-Gallagher Sand Company in Manorhaven. Once the epidemic subsided at the end of the summer, the building was abandoned. Two years later, the community had to repurpose the hospital to care for patients of yet another infectious disease-influenza.

The image is a reproduction of an oil on canvas portrait of Mrs. Lilian Walker who volunteered to take charge of the project. Working in conjunction with the Red Cross, who assigned nurses, Mrs. Walker equipped and staffed a hospital that provided beds for 19 patients. She did it virtually overnight, without support from the federal government (WW1 took priority), recruiting volunteers and donations from the community. In the end, more than 100 local residents had contributed their time, goods, and money.

While her abilities were exceptional, her sense of civic duty was not unusual. During WW1, many women were called upon to do what had been considered a man’s job (none was more dangerous than caring for patients of influenza), and thereby providing fuel for the suffragist movement that followed in the 1920s.

-Submitted by the Cow Neck Historical Society, www.cowneck.org

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