The next year, Lillian founded the Henry Street Settlement House at 265 Henry Street. The philosophies informing her medical practice were considered radical for the time. She believed that all individuals, regardless of race, gender or social status, deserved quality health care. Further, she believed that those who were home-bound in tenements and could not afford at-home medical care still deserved access to it, along with the same respect given to those who could afford it.
As such, her drive and compassion were not limited to Henry Street. She was an early advocate of nursing in public schools, and her voice was chief among those driving the New York Board of Health to create what would be the world’s first public nursing system. She was a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and hosted the organization’s first major public event at Henry Street. She toured Hawaii, Japan, China and Russia, meeting dignitaries to share her ideas and learn from other cultures. She was a leader of the Child Labor Committee, which promoted education and lobbied for child labor laws. She, and Henry Street, supported industrial workers on strike for better treatment, and she was a tireless advocate for women’s suffrage. “The greater number of [women] have been more concerned with that portion of the political life that is related to human happiness…the home life and family…,” she wrote in 1915 in an article titled “20 Reasons Why You Should Vote Suffrage.” “Men have been more definitely prepared for other political and social duties. The mingling of the traditions…seem to me to give the best promise for securing better government.”