The Top 100 Greatest New Yorkers — #49
Mother Hale (1905 – 1992)
Orphaned at 16 and widowed at 27, Clara McBride Hale lived for her children. Working impossible hours as a janitor and house cleaner during the Great Depression in an effort to keep her three children housed and fed, Hale later took in other families’ young as well. Opening her house as a daycare, she soon became known for her nurturing ways with sick and abandoned infants and developed expertise caring for babies whose mothers were addicted to drugs. Ultimately caring for 40 kids at a time, Hale opened a child care facility in Harlem near Morningside Park, simply dubbed Hale House, where she helped those who had been born with drug addictions inherited in the womb (mostly crack cocaine and heroin) through the painful process of detoxification. Hale House also created education programs for parents to find their feet again and take responsibility for their lives and families. Of the hundreds who passed through her doors, only 12 were placed for adoption. By the time she died at age 87, Mother Hale had been named a true American hero by President Reagan. At Hale’s funeral, Rev. Carolyn Knight called her “the moral conscience of the city”.
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