Recently I was processing some minutes from Mount Sinai's Social Service Auxiliary (today's Auxiliary Board). This group of dedicated women was founded in 1916 to support the Social Service Department here and it has funded scores of projects around the Hospital and Medical Center over the years, most devoted to understanding and improving the experience of the patient. (One obvious exception was when they paid one half of my salary my first year here to help underwrite the creation of the Archives. Thanks!) Anyway, I was perusing the Report of the Social Service Dept. for 1917 and it noted that the department was formed in 1906 (knew that) and was one of the first such programs in the country (knew that) and the first social worker hired was a graduate of The Mount Sinai Hospital Training School for Nurses (knew that), Miss Rose Johnson. Wait, what?! For years now people who have studied the history of the Hospital and the department have all noted that Jennie Greenthal, also a graduate of our school, was the first social worker hired here in 1906. Who was Rose Johnson?!
This set me off to look through the records that I have that might shed light on this. I searched the Board of Directors (now Trustees) minutes for 1905-06: nothing on this but endlessy fascinating. (The doctors asked the Directors to please study the administrative functions because the floors were dirty and the food was bad. The Directors disagreed, but it wasn't long after this that new people were brought in to oversee the housekeeping, laundry, and food service. Hmm.) I checked the annual reports for 1905-1908 and no social worker is noted until the report covering 1907. So I went back to the minutes of the Board and started searching the minutes from 1907. For good measure, I also searched the Executive Committee of the Board for 1907. And that's when I realized that we had probably been wrong about this for the last 90 years!
In the July 15, 1907 minutes of the Executive Committee, the Superintendent of the Hospital reported that he had made "arrangements for the summer months with Miss Greenthal to act as social Nurse and friendly Visitor in the wards". Later that year, Mr. Paul Warburg offered to give $1,000 to support the efforts of the now named Social Welfare Department, and that is what is reported in the 1907 annual report. Another source says that Rose Johnson, RN, took over from Miss Greenthal after the summer.<social $1,000="$1,000" 1907="1907" after="after" and="and" annual="annual" another="Another" department,="Department," efforts="efforts" friendly="friendly" from="from" give="give" greenthal="Greenthal" in="in" is="is" johnson,="Johnson," later="Later" miss="Miss" mr.="Mr." named="named" now="now" nurse="Nurse" of="of" offered="offered" over="over" p="P" paul="Paul" report.="report." reported="reported" rn,="RN," rose="Rose" says="says" social="Social" source="source" summer.
But why had we ever started using the 1906 date? Well, we knew we were an early program in the new field of medical social work (the first was in 1905) and memories are not perfect. In fact, I have some typed notes from an interview with Jennie Greenthal where she says that she started the social work department in 1906. But this was 30 years after the fact and the surviving documentation does not support that. Perhaps they started talking about doing this in 1906; certainly Dr. Goldwater was very interested in this new area of hospital work. We'll never know exactly how the earlier date crept in, but I, for one, am convinced that our Social Service Department began in 1907 and we've been wrong all of these years.
Now I wonder if anything else could be mis-dated…..