Neighbor to the World Critical Context - Essay

Irvin Block

Critical Context

Neighbor to the World is one book in the Women of America series, under the general editorship of Milton Meltzer. Other biographies in the series examine the lives of Mother Jones, a labor activist; Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine; Dr. Florence Sabin, a medical researcher; and Margaret Sanger, a birth control advocate—all women who refused to accept things as they were, who took risks and met challenges. The series springs from the consciousness-raising efforts, of the 1960’s, particularly women’s liberation. Wald’s dedicated career of public service and her refusal to be bound by the conventions generally accepted by other women at the end of the nineteenth century are dramatic reminders of what women can achieve.

For young adult readers who believe that they are part of an uncaring, impersonal society, which cannot be changed for the better and in which they have little place or purpose, this description of Wald’s life and the ways in which she helped others will be valuable. Block’s biography is of a generous, determined, intelligent woman who was fortunate in her upbringing but who believed that she had to help those who were not so fortunate. For Wald, charity, nursing, and community centers and theaters were not enough. She fought for unions, laws that were in the public interest, good housing, international human rights, and world peace. Such was the vision and the work of Lillian Wald.