Episode 73: Florence Wald’s early years and the state of care for the terminally ill in the 1930s

Saul Ebema: In Latin, the word hospice means to host a guest or stranger; Florence Wald, centered her life on hosting a dignified end of life process that honored the patient’s personhood. Her ideas around death and dying led to the formation of the first modern hospice in the United States in 1974. Because of her, there are thousands of hospice programs around the country- serving millions of patients and families.

Florence’s pioneering efforts have forever changed the heart of the American society to accept and engage in an end-of-life process that she described as “appropriate, understanding, and natural.”

And in 1998, she took her rightful place in the National Women’s Hall of Fame with legends such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman, and Florence’s idol, Lillian Wald.

You are now listening to Personhood! The story of Florence Wald and the Hospice movement – Episode One and I am your host Saul Ebema  

On April 6, 1917, just 13 days before Florence Wald was born, the United States decided to enter World War I. President Woodrow Wilson gave a speech to Congress on April 2, 1917 asking for them to declare war on Germany. In his speech he said that the U.S. would go to war to “fight for the ultimate peace of the world.” And on April 6, 1917- the US military marched to war.

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Saul Ebema: When World War I initially broke out across Europe in 1914, it was mainly between the central powers led by Germany, Austria, and Hungary against the Allied countries led by Britain, France, and Russia.

At the start of the war, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the United States would remain neutral.

Archival footage

Saul Ebema: Just as America went into the battlefield against Germany, on April 19th, 1917, Florence Wald was born into a German family to Mr. and Mrs. Schorske in a divided world. Although the Schorske family were second-generation Americans, their values and culture were heavily influenced by their German heritage.

Before the war started, the Schorskes spoke German at home so the children would be bilingual. However, during the war, fear of isolation turned them to English speaking.

Deeply rooted in Bronx, New York, The Schorskes exposed their children from an early age to the ideas of kindness, love, care, and equality for all.

Barb Newton: In interviews and presentations, Florence often said that her parents were members of the socialist party and as such, she was exposed to a variety of social justice-based causes from a young age.

Her parents often volunteered to teach English to the immigrants on New York’s Lower East Side and raised Florence and her brother Carl to show concern for others and advocate for social justice.

Saul Ebema: This upbringing deeply rooted in the ideas of universal equality and compassion, would ingrain Florence with deep-seated beliefs about the world and how people should fundamentally be treated. These concepts would later directly influence her practices around hospice care.

Danelle Shoemaker: Despite of her generally positive upbringing, life was not always perfect in Florence’s early childhood. She experienced a number of health issues as a young child that required frequent hospitalizations.

In 1926, when Florence was 7 years old, her family traveled to Florida to facilitate Florence’s recovery from an episode of life-threatening pneumonia.

On the return trip home, they stopped in Washington, DC, and there Florence was diagnosed with scarlet fever.

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Brian Mackender: Scarlet Fever was a leading cause of death in children during the early 20th century. When a child was found to have scarlet fever, they went through weeks of isolation in the hospital.

Saul Ebema: For 7-year-old Florence, this meant weeks of isolation in Garfield Hospital. Florence later described that experience as being trapped in a “vintage Civil War hospital.”

Barb Newton: This was the first time Florence had been separated from her family, and it was a challenge for everyone. Her private nurse, Eunice Biller, from Richmond, Virginia, cared for Florence like she was her own child. Eunice Biller understood the impact of scarlet fever on Florence and did everything to keep her spirits up. In addition to her care, she provided spiritual support, music therapy, art and craft and toys for Florence to play with.

Saul Ebema: Florence would later reflect that it was the care of her nurse, Eunice Biller that made her “feel like a person, not a patient with a contagious disease.”

Danelle Shoemaker: When Florence’s mother visited, due to the isolation policy at the hospital, she was not allowed into the hospital. But Eunice Biller, her nurse would carry Florence to the window, where Florence would wave to her mother 3 floors down.

From this time forward, Florence was committed to becoming a nurse. Her favorite pastime as a child became playing nurse to the dolls she had at home.

Saul Ebema: It was that kind of compassionate care which valued the sense of personhood that would later evolve into the hospice philosophy of care.


Saul Ebema: When Florence was 10 years old, the family traveled to Germany to reconnect with their roots and visit with the extended family. She loved it there.

In 1932, Florence and her mother returned to visit family in Berlin- this time, they found an entirely different Germany. The Nazis were promoting anti-Semitic activities and organizing pro-Hitler rallies. The country seemed to be filled with unexpected outbursts of hate and violence towards the Jewish citizens.

This validated what the Schorskes had been reading in the U.S. papers and led them to help Jewish families immigrate to America.

Archival footage

Saul Ebema: In 1934 when Florence was 17 years old, she decided to go to college.

Barb Newton: From a young age, Florence was always a determined girl. So, when she broke the news about her desire to go to college to her father, he was not happy. Her father, like many men of his generation did not believe that women should go to college, and he discouraged her from doing so.

Remember, this was also the period of the great depression in America, but her family had the means and could afford her college education.

Saul Ebema: Florence was not the person to easily take no for an answer. After some convincing, Florence’s dad allowed her to attend Barnard College and live at home.

Barb Newton: Florence however, had another idea. She chose to attend—Mount Holyoke College—which meant she would live hours away from home in South Hadley, MA. Her father was not happy with her college choice, but he allowed Florence to begin a new and independent life.

Saul Ebema: Meanwhile, the American healthcare system that she would later reform, was being hit hard by the g…

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Well Honestly: Episode: 38- Did You Know? – What The Doctors DON’T Tell You!-

In this weeks episode we breakdown some things that doctors fail to tell you to help with your wellness journey. All too often, we go to the doctor only to leave with a prescription and a follow up appointment. Rarely, are we told about wholistic measures prior to medication. We breakdown a few simple things to think about adding to your health regimen.  We share statistics, impact and advice on the questions to ask, research and tips to tackle managing your journey.

Do you have questions about your body and how to navigate getting your health in order? We are in the same boat.

 We are all about community and wellness on this episode so lets jump right into it.

 [00:55] Introduction: Its The Way Of The World

[02:55] Overview of the Topic: Did You Know? Things The Doctor Didn’t Tell You.

[06:00] The Truth About Stool Softeners: ARTICLE

[07:00] The Truth About Heart Burn : ARTICLE

[08:40] The Truth About  Ashwagandha and Maca Root : ARTICLE

[10:00] The Truth About Your Cleaning Products: ARTICLE

[12:00] The Truth About The Grapefruit Challenge: Article

[13:00] The Truth About Activated Charcoal : Article

[15:00] The Truth About Green Tea: Article

[17:40] The Truth About Balance

[18:45] The Key Takeaway for Managing Your Wellness. 

[19:40] More About Us & Our Mission & How to Be featured on our podcast


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