Bethlehem City Council Appoints
First Black Woman
In the first quarter of the calendar year, the nation observes Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March. This year, Wandalyn Enix made history in Bethlehem when members of City Council unanimously voted Enix as council member—the city’s first black woman to serve. On Wed., Feb. 2, 2022, Enix was sworn-in at a private ceremony. Council members voted Enix over 11 applicants who sought the vacant council seat. As a council member, Enix said her priority would focus on affordable housing. City Council Vice President Grace Crampsie Smith said, “Her resume is remarkable, to say the least.”
She is a true role model to Bethlehem; she is Bethlehem. Her family has been here for over one hundred years.”
Enix thanked former black candidates, Rev. R. Wakefield Roberts, Elliot Blue and Bethlehem NAACP president Esther M. Lee, who previously ran for city council and paved the way for her winning vote. Esther M. Lee said, “This is a long time coming for the city of Bethlehem.”
Enix was born in Bethlehem and raised on the South Side. A graduate of Howard University, she was a teacher for 11 years in the Bethlehem public schools before she received her doctorate from Temple University. In New Jersey at Montclair State University, she spent 30 years as an education professor. Her retirement in 2012 brought her back to Bethlehem. Wandalyn Enix serves on South Bethlehem Histori-cal Society Board of Directors.
A Fitting Tribute
As Black History Month came to a close, on Feb. 27, 2022, Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts hosted a visual presentation titled, A Pillar in the Branch of Bethlehem’s NAACP: Mrs. Esther M. Lee. The multimedia presentation illustrates Esther M. Lee’s family life growing up in South Side Bethlehem and features her accomplishments as a prominent local civil rights and political activist.
The exhibit is open through the month of March 2022. Kemerer Museum is located at 427 N. New St. in Bethlehem. Admission is free of charge on Sundays.
M. Rayah Levy is founder and CEO of the Esther M. Lee African American Heritage Center. In collaboration with Lee, Rayah Levy, MLS., Public Services Librarian ILL & Circulation Supervisor Reeves Library, Moravian University, has been archiving material related to Esther Lee—longtime civil rights activist and president of the Bethlehem NAACP.
Levy sees the heritage center’s focus on the Black history in the city of Bethlehem. Levy pictures something similar to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem—one of New York Public Library’s renowned research libraries.
Madam C. J. Walker
Black female. Daughter of slaves. Orphan. Child laborer. Widowed young mother. Penniless migrant. Poor washerwoman. Philanthropist.
Before she became known as “the first self-made female millionaire” in the United States, Madam C. Walker was born in 1867. She died in 1919 and she lived a devastatingly difficult life in the emerging Jim Crow South after the end of reconstruction in the late nineteenth century. But she resolved early to help herself and black people by being generous anyway she could with what little she had, no matter the circumstances. Ultimately, Madam C. J. Walker worked to give to black people- particularly black women— some of what Jim Crow had taken away from them. In the process, she became a significant American philanthropist and a foremother of black philanthropy today.
These are the words that Tyrone McKinley Freeman used in describing her in his book titled “Gospel of Giving — black women’s philanthropy during Jim Crow.”
She was born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867. Her parents were Owen and Minerva Breedlove. She was their fifth and first-free born child, on a cotton plantation in Delta, LA. Young Sarah would not have much time with her parents. Sarah’s parents died by the time she was seven, and her older sister Louvenia, cared for her. They moved around the south in search of better opportunities, and Sarah, while barely a teen, began working as a washerwoman. She married, had a daughter at seventeen, and lost her husband quickly to death. Life was cruel.
However, in her early twenties, Sarah and her young daughter, Lelia, began to turn their lives around after arriving in St. Louis, Missouri, around 1889 with less than $2 in hand. They connected with a local African Methodist Epis-copal (AME) church and received aid through its network of social services for black migrants that was largely operated by black women. Sarah’s work as a washerwoman along with other odd jobs eventually enabled her to put her daughter through Knoxville College in Tennessee and attend night school herself, for the aftermath of slavery and rise of Jim Crow had originally denied her an education.
By 1910, after many more struggles and movement through other cities such as Denver and Pittsburgh, Sarah made her home in Indianapolis and incorporated the Madam C.J. Walker manufacturing company of Indiana, which sold hair-care and beauty products. The company’s success would make her one of the wealthiest black women in the country, causing her to be-come known as the “first self-made female millionaire.” Adopting the initials and surname of her third husband, Charles Joseph Walker, Sarah forged an entrepreneurial and philanthropic identity as Madam C. J. Walker and directed her giving to black social service and educational causes dear to her, important to her business, and vital for her people, especially black women.
As a race woman, Walker’s guiding philosophies were racial uplift and independence for black women, and she used philanthropy to express them throughout her life generally, and specifically through the Walker company and her agents. Although she died in 1919 at the age of fifty-one from stress-related illness, she enjoyed the fruits of her labor. At the height of Jim Crow, Walker’s success enabled her to travel the country promoting her business in her own personal automobiles. She also owned several pieces of real estate, including a $250,000, thirty-four room mansion that she built in the wealthy neighbor-hood in New York State where John D. Rockefeller lived.
Madam C. J. Walker was generous throughout her life and afterward through her agents and her estate. It challenges the assumption that whites are the primary agents of philanthropy and blacks are mainly its recipients. Like our J. F. Goodwin scholarship club founded by a black doctor continues to give to students today in Bethlehem in the twenty-first century.
—Debra Michals, Ph.D. is a feminist historian, assistant professor and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Merrimack College near Boston, MA. Her recent focus is on women entrepreneurs which includes activism and enterprise. Debra is also a public historian and consultant who has authored museum exhibits on U.S. women’s history.
…An Unfulfilled Journey
Last fall, while standing at a familiar gravesite in Fountain Hill Cemetery, I imagined this woman eager to make a new life with her relatives in South Bethlehem, but here she lies, her hopes and dreams unfulfilled. I came to know the circumstances behind this woman’s death through family whispers and unsavory urban legends.
In 1967, when I married my husband, Charles Klein Jr., I became part of the Klein family. Over the years, I recalled hearing bits and pieces of a young immigrant woman named Susan, the niece of Katherine Warbrick Klein, my husband’s paternal grandmother.
Susanna ‘Susan’ Husz was born in Austria-Hungary in Eastern Europe on Dec. 3, 1894. This attractive, young lady at 4-foot eleven had bright blue eyes and naturally blonde hair. Susanna emigrated from Bremen, Germany at the age of 17 when she arrived in New York on Nov. 7, 1911. Her final destination was South Bethlehem, Pa., where she eventually came to live with her Uncle John, Aunt Katherine Klein and their two children, Charles and Elsie in their home at 426 Carlton Ave. For a number of years, the Kleins’ ran a substantial baking business on E. Third St. in South Bethlehem.
In the early 1920s, Katherine Klein’s niece, Susanna shortened her name to ‘Susan’ and was eager to find a job. She landed full-time employment as a ‘daily’ rather than a live-in housekeeper helping to make meals, cleaning, washing and ironing. Katherine Convers owned the 2½-story home she turned into a boarding house at 735 Delaware Ave. near St. Luke’s Hospital—the area known for its stately homes and fraternity houses for Lehigh University students.
Susan walked to the boarding house job each day, a short distance from home on Carlton Ave.
Even though most of the Klein family has passed away, I kept up my friendship with Elsie Klein Morrison. After all our phone conversations of the family in South Side Bethlehem, a recent conversation turned to Susan Husz and her job on Delaware Ave. I learned that Susan (32) had an operation for appendicitis, the anguish her family felt while visiting Susan in St. Luke’s Hospital, and then their utter disbelief of her death a week later, Mar. 29, 1926. The family had to prepare a hasty funeral and burial just as they had recently purchased a cemetery plot, which Susan now shares with the Kleins. Susan’s family was notified in Europe—a conversation too painful to imagine.
In retribution for her niece’s demise, Katherine Klein posted an obituary in the Bethlehem Globe Times that included the address of the Delaware Ave. property where Susan worked. It seemed Katharine wanted that ‘someone’ who lived there to know that the family knew of the perpetrator that helped in Susan’s death. This was Katherine’s only recourse after she read Susan’s death certificate, “Septicemia resulting from a criminal abortion.” Simply put—Susan died unnecessarily of a “botched abortion.”
I couldn’t help think how this true story hit so close to home with so many recent questions related to abortion—Will the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022? Will the court’s conservative majority roll back abortion rights and create a contentious political battle?
Between 2011 and 2016, 162 abortion clinics in the United States closed or stopped offering abortions due largely to legislative regulations. For many years, women like Susan had no legal recourse …her life simply ended by an illegal procedure because she was too afraid or embarrassed to tell her circumstance to a family that had already given her so much.
Susan’s story is an important reality today as the Supreme Court approaches the Roe v. Wade decision to curtail all womens’ right to choose, close Planned Parent-hood clinics that provide in-clinic abortions or an abortion pill, and pregnancy options that include counseling other than abortion.
I can’t forget Susan’s story, how her hopes and dreams were snuffed out so early in life.
I wonder if this is the alternative we want for our daughters, granddaughters and for all women to face in the future?
—Kathie Klein is a former teacher in the Bethlehem Area School District and served on the Board of Directors of South Bethlehem Historical Society; Kathie currently serves on the Society’s Advisory Board.
A Caring Profession
Though many patients take nurses for granted at St. Lukes Hospital in Fountain Hill, it may come as a surprise that the origin of the nursing profession can be traced back to the Crimean War in 1854. British-born, Florence Nightingale, was sent with 38 nurses to care for wounded British soldiers at Scutari, Turkey, an important Army facility within a fort. When the group of nurses arrived, they found four miles of wounded soldiers in desperate need of care. Miss Nightingale organized sanitary wards at the hospital situated in the fort. By encouraging village folks to work for the hospital, Nightingale had developed the beginning of the nursing profession. When Nightingale returned to England, she established a hospital and founded the Nightingale School of Nursing.
In South Bethlehem during the early 1870s, men held industrial jobs which demanded physical strength. The working population was in need of a hospital to deal with industrial accidents and diseases.
Physicians were also needed to administer health care from South Bethlehem to regions north in Carbon County. South Bethlehem was logically half-way between the coal regions and Philadelphia—then the only metro-politan area equipped to deal with the sick or injured.
In 1874, a two-story building in South Bethlehem became the first hospital; this was located on the
“Cinder Road” between Brodhead Ave. and Wyandotte St., which later became Carpenter St., and then Broadway. The defunct Water Cure buildings established by Dr. Francis H. Oppelt in the Fountain Hill area were purchased, and the site was developed into St. Luke’s Hospital on Ostrum St. Dr. William Estes headed the facility where the ‘ward system’ of treating patients was used.
St. Luke’s School of Nursing. In 1885, a school of nursing was established with Miss M.J. Merritt, a principal from Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Merritt set up the school using Bellevue as a model. Nine female students enrolled in the two-year nursing program and wore the white signature ‘Bellevue’ organdy cap. By 1902, the training period increased to three years. In 1927, a high-school diploma was the compulsory entrance requirement to the nursing school; today, some college courses are required. A student nurses residence was established at Bishopthorpe Manor in 1931, the early Fountain Hill mansion that had earlier been used as a girl’s school. It had living rooms, a library, a kitchen and classrooms. The building was demolished in Dec. 1994, though its ornate French-style iron work was saved from the front porch and redesigned into a gazebo behind the Trexler nurses residence.
In 1935, the cost of the three-year training program was $75. One year later, a psychiatric affiliation with Allentown State Hospital was arranged. We spent three months working and taking classes there; before it closed, student nurses just had a one-day tour of the facility.
The U.S. Cadet Nurses Corp. was created in 1943—it provided free training from which 220 nurses graduated before it ended in 1948. The concept was to provide nurses for the army during WWII, but enlistment after graduation was not compulsory. In 1947, when I was interviewed prior to admission into the school, Miss Houser told me, “This is an exciting time to enter the field of medicine, because we now have Penicillin.” This new drug revolutionized medicine, when used by the Army during the war, and eventually made available to the public.
By the end of the 1940s, we were given a few lectures titled, “What to expect if an Atomic Bomb explodes.” In those days, it was thought that New York (90 miles away) would be the target: we would see a bright flash, a mushroom cloud and experience a severe burning blast of wind. If we indeed experienced any of these, we were to dive under a patient’s bed for cover. We were told not to worry about the patient because we would have thousands more, and that it was important to protect ourselves since there would not be enough nurses and we were of great value. We would also have to do procedures that doctors would normally do, which raised some difficult questions like, “who gets the last pint of blood: a young person or your elderly mother?” The answer was: the young person.
In 1984, the cost of two-year training was $7,400. The length of training was reduced to 33 months in 1968, then to 24 months in 1972. The 12-credit training pro-gram is currently 6-12 months and the fee is $10,670.
Changes have also been made at the School of Nursing: night classes are offered; students can be married and live at home; there is much less “hands on” nursing experience on the floors during training, and admission into the nursing field is open to a wide diversity of women and men.
Besides the fine reputation of St. Luke’s Hospital, St. Luke’s School of Nursing program continues to enjoy an excellent reputation throughout the country.
—Louise Valeriano is a graduate of St. Luke’s School of Nursing, Class of 1951. She is the sister of the late Maggie Szabo, City Council member and co-founder of South Bethlehem Historical Society. Louise currently serves on the Society’s Advisory Board.
Our Changing Times by Carol Dean Henn
There are many things in life that we can only see clearly in retrospect, after the passage of time.
Our youth and our school years are often in that category. The 1960s were years of enormous change; change we could barely comprehend while we were in the middle of it. The 1960s took me from junior high through high school, college, and the start of graduate school. What an extraordinary time in which to go from age 13 to 22! Those of us who were ‘Sixties kids’ were eyewitnesses to the Civil Rights Movement; the cresting of the war in Vietnam; cultural change in music, movies, and theatre; and the massive change from broad trust in government leaders to searing doubts about their truthfulness and motives. Less visible were other changes, including the blossoming of women’s aspirations and ambitions, and the fading of distinctions between ‘upper and lower’ social classes. South Bethlehem was ahead of the curve on several of these waves of change.
From grade school on, my classes had students of widely varying ethnic backgrounds—Greek, Irish, Windish, Polish, Italian, Slovak, Hungarian, German, Ukrainians and more—as well as black, Hispanic and Asian students. (We called them Oriental back then, a term of respect.) At Sure-Fit and Bethlehem Steel, my parents had black co-workers. They also had black friends, and we visited at their homes as they did ours. Black and white classmates attended a 13th birthday party for a black friend of mine, and what we really had in common was our social awkwardness. At 13, the boys didn’t quite know how to ask the girls to dance, the girls weren’t sure if they should, and everyone wondered if their clothes and hair styles were ‘cool’ enough. So, the girls danced together, the boys stuffed themselves with cake and ice cream, and some finally had enough courage to dance with each other– fast dances, that is.
I was involved in many activities at Broughal Junior High, as were other South Bethlehem students: theatre, variety shows, chorus, clubs, athletics. It was during my time at Broughal that our sports teams were named the Broughal Rockets, probably because Alan Shepherd made his first flight when I was in ninth grade. The live broadcast of that flight was brought into our classrooms via radio, and we listened in amazement. At Liberty High School, I expanded my activities, as did other South Bethlehem students. Elise Limon, for example, who lived near the corner of Morton and Pierce Streets, was editor of the LHS newspaper, Liberty Life.
Having been active in student government since 10th grade, I decided to run for student government president at the end of 11th grade. I was sixteen. At that time, before Freedom High School was built, LHS had more than 3,000 students, and being president of the Student
Association – the whole student body – was no small thing. I was excited when I won the election, but I didn’t realize how unusual that victory was. Only when the Bethlehem Globe-Times reported the event, ‘First Female President of Student Body, and when a national magazine, Seventeen, ran an article about my election, did I begin to under-stand. Until that time, females in student government and class offices tended to be secretaries, treasurers, or social activities secretaries. The presidents and vice presidents were almost always males.
In college, in my freshman year, I attended parties and teas hosted by upper class (junior and senior) women students. I often heard them anxiously talking about being seniors and not yet being engaged. Many female students, of course, were serious about their studies, but many were focused on leaving college with an engagement ring. In sharp contrast, the women in my freshman class talked about career plans, majors, graduate schools, Honors classes, Independent Study, and study abroad. The line delineating that difference, between female students in the early Sixties and those in classes of the late Sixties, seemed, to me, to be almost visible. Female students no longer focused solely on be-coming teachers or nurses – fine professions – but also on becoming doctors, lawyers, CPAs, scientists, business owners, symphony orchestra members. During my years in college, women won Fulbright Scholarships and, soon after, a MacArthur Fellowship and other prestigious awards. Two South Bethlehem women were winners of those Fulbright Scholarships. Perhaps they, like me, did not realize at the time that we were part of a tsunami of change that continues to this day.
—Carol Henn grew up in South Bethlehem. She is the retired CEO of the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, and is the author of Oilcloth Stories, a book about immigrant life in South Bethlehem in the early to mid-20th century. She has written a second book, a sequel to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, for which she is now seeking a publisher.