On This Day
1891 – Almon Strowger, an undertaker in Topeka, Kansas, patents the Strowger switch, a device which led to the automation of telephone circuit switching.
The Strowger switch is the first commercially successful electromechanical stepping switch telephone exchange system. It was developed by the Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange Company founded in 1891 by Almon Brown Strowger. Because of its operational characteristics it is also known as a step-by-step (SXS) switch.
Strowger, an undertaker, was motivated to invent an automatic telephone exchange after having difficulties with the local telephone operators, one of whom was the wife of a competitor. He was said to be convinced that she, as one of the manual telephone exchange operators, was sending calls “to the undertaker” to her husband.
He conceived his invention in 1888, and was awarded a patent for an automatic telephone exchange in 1891. The initial model was made from a round collar box and some straight pins.
While Almon Strowger devised the initial concept, he was not alone in his endeavors and sought the assistance of his brother Arnold, nephew William, and others with a knowledge of electricity and financing to realize the concept. The Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange Company was founded in 1891.
The company installed and opened the first commercial exchange in his then-home town of La Porte, Indiana on November 3, 1892, with about 75 subscribers and a capacity for 99. It used two telegraph type keys on the telephone, which had to be tapped the correct number of times to step the switch, but the use of separate keys with separate conductors to the exchange was not practical for a commercial system. Early advertising called the new invention the “girl-less, cuss-less, out-of-order-less, wait-less telephone”. 
The Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange Company became the Automatic Electric Company, which Strowger was involved in founding, although Strowger himself seems not to have been involved in further developments. The Strowger patents were exclusively licensed to the Automatic Electric Company. Strowger sold his patents in 1896 for US$1,800 and sold his share in Automatic Electric in 1898 for US$10,000. His patents subsequently sold for US$2.5 million in 1916. Company engineers continued development of the Strowger designs and submitted several patents in the names of its employees.
The Strowger system was widely used until the development of the more reliable crossbar switch, an electromechanical switch with a matrix of vertical and horizontal bars and simpler motions.
Born On This Day
1867 – Lillian Wald, American nurse, humanitarian, and author, founded the Henry Street Settlement (d. 1940)
Lillian D. Wald (March 10, 1867 – September 1, 1940) was an American nurse, humanitarian and author. She was known for contributions to human rights and was the founder of American community nursing. She founded the Henry Street Settlement in New York City and was an early advocate to have nurses in public schools.
After growing up in Ohio and New York, Wald became a nurse. She briefly attended medical school and began to teach community health classes. After founding the Henry Street Settlement, she became an activist for the rights of women and minorities. She campaigned for suffrage and was a supporter of racial integration. She was involved in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Wald died in 1940 at the age of 73.
Early life and education
Wald was born into a German-Jewish middle-class family in Cincinnati, Ohio; her father was an optical dealer. In 1878, she moved with her family to Rochester, New York. She attended Miss Cruttenden’s English-French Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies. She applied to Vassar College at the age of 16, but the school thought that she was too young. In 1889, she attended New York Hospital’s School of Nursing. She graduated from the New York Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1891, then took courses at the Woman’s Medical College.
Wald worked for a time at the New York Juvenile Asylum (now Children’s Village), an orphanage where conditions were poor. By 1893, she left medical school and started to teach a home class on nursing for poor immigrant families on New York City’s Lower East Side at the Hebrew Technical School for Girls. Shortly thereafter, she began to care for sick Lower East Side residents as a visiting nurse. Along with another nurse, Mary Brewster, she moved into a spartan room near her patients, in order to care for them better. Around that time she coined the term “public health nurse” to describe nurses whose work is integrated into the public community.
Wald advocated for nursing in public schools. Her ideas led the New York Board of Health to organize the first public nursing system in the world. She was the first president of the National Organization for Public Health Nursing. Wald established a nursing insurance partnership with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company that became a model for many other corporate projects. She suggested a national health insurance plan and helped to found the Columbia University School of Nursing. Wald authored two books relating to her community health work, The House on Henry Street (1911) and Windows on Henry Street (1934).
Wald founded the Henry Street Settlement. The organization attracted the attention of prominent Jewish philanthropist Jacob Schiff, who secretly provided Wald with money to more effectively help the “poor Russian Jews” whose care she provided. By 1906 Wald had 27 nurses on staff, and she succeeded in attracting broader financial support from such gentiles as Elizabeth Milbank Anderson. By 1913 the staff had grown to 92 people. The Henry Street Settlement eventually developed as the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.
The Henry Street Settlement
Wald’s vision for Henry Street was one unlike any others at the time. Wald believed that every New York City resident was entitled to equal and fair health care regardless of their social status, socio-economic status, race, gender, or age. She argued that everyone should have access to at-home-care. A strong advocate for adequate bed-side manner, Wald believed that regardless of if a person could afford at-home-care, they deserved to be treated with the same level of respect that some who could afford it would be.
Social benefits of the Henry Street Settlement
Arguably one of the most significant changes to the public health sector, the Settlement did much more than just provide better medical care. Primarily focusing on the care of women and children, the Settlement changed the way public health care was in New York City. These programs helped to cut back on time patients spent at hospitals while also making at-home-care more accessible and efficient.
Wald was a strong advocate for community support. Much of the Henry Street Settlement’s initial success was from Wald’s diligent and persistent work at cultivating personal relationships with the Settlement’s donors. Wald was also a strong advocate for the social benefit of having donors who dwelled within the community. These benefits included the temporary break-up of families when people were forced to spend time in the hospital, improved the quality of at-home-care, and reduced medical expenses by offering an alternative to hospital stays.
Employment of women
Wald provided a unique opportunity for women and employment through the Settlement. In her letters, she speaks with donors about the employment opportunities that are provided to women through the Settlement and the many benefits they offer. One of the most notable benefits was the opportunity for women to have a career and to build their own wealth independent of husbands or families. Employment also provided women with the opportunity to gain independence from their husbands and work outside of the home.
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