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  • Hank Orenstein

New Yorkers of the Day, Mother Clara Hale and Rachel Maddow, born April 1st.

Award-winning Political journalist and MSBC TV host Rachel Maddow was born on April 1, 1973, in Castro Valley, California, to an attorney, Robert, and a school administrator, Elaine. Maddow holds a bachelor's degree in public policy from Stanford University and a doctorate in political science from Oxford University and is the first openly lesbian anchor to host a major prime-time news program in the United States.

Maddow showed an interest in journalism at an early age. She started reading the newspaper when she was only seven, concluding her cover-to-cover reading sessions with pertinent questions about what she had read. As a teen, Maddow competed on the swimming, volleyball and basketball teams at Castro Valley High School, but a shoulder injury prompted her to abandon sports. Maddow devoted the opening in her schedule to volunteering at a local AIDS clinic.


She first gained national prominence as a host on Air America Radio, where she worked from its inception in 2004. Prior to joining AAR she worked for WRNX in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and WRSI in Northampton, Massachusetts. In 2008, Maddow was the substitute host for Countdown with Keith Olbermann, her first time hosting a program on MSNBC. Maddow described herself on-air as "nervous". Keith Olbermann complimented her work, and she was brought back to host Countdown the next month. The show she hosted was the highest-rated news program among people aged 25 to 54. For her success, Olbermann ranked Maddow third in his show's segment "World's Best Persons". In July 2008, Maddow filled in again for several broadcasts. Maddow also filled in for David Gregory as host of Race for the White House.


Maddow wrote Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power (2012) about the role of the military in postwar American politics. Upon its release, Drift reached the first position of The New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover nonfiction. Maddow's second book Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth was published in October 2019.


Once asked about her political views by the Valley Advocate, Maddow replied, "I'm undoubtedly a liberal, which means that I'm in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform."

On March 2, 2018, The New York Times published Maddow's first crossword puzzle, in collaboration with Joe DiPietro. On the eve of its publication, she said: "This is kind of it, like there will never be a baby, but there's this freaking crossword puzzle, and I am very, very excited about it."

Maddow splits her time between Manhattan and West Cummington, Massachusetts with her partner, artist and their black lab, Poppy. They met in 1999, when Maddow was working on her doctoral dissertation.


Sources for this post: biography.com; wikipedia; nbcnews.com;rachelmaddow.com



About Mother Hale (pictured above, photo courtesy of the NY Daily News).


One of NYC’s great humanitarians, Clara McBride was born April 1, 1905 in

Elizabeth City, North Carolina and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a long-time Harlem resident she helped over 1,000 drug addicted babies and young children who were born addicted to drugs, HIV, and children whose parents had died of AIDS.


Clara married shortly after high school and moved to New York City where she studied business administration, cleaned, and worked as a domestic. She was 27 when her husband Thomas Hale died. She had three children, Nathan, Lorraine and adopted son Kenneth. In 1938, her husband died from cancer, and Hale struggled to support her children through the Great Depression. Her rough life made it hard to financially support and care for her three children, consequently she had to find a job. Hale cleaned houses and continued her job as a janitor, laboring day and night to make ends meet.


Eventually she retired from these jobs to spend more time with her children. She stayed home with her children and in order to be as big a part of their lives as possible, Hale opened her own home daycare, initially keeping the children while their parents worked during the day. The children that she cared for found her home to be such a caring and loving environment they did not want to go home at the end of the day, most began to stay full-time only seeing their mothers on the weekends. She used her home as a day care for other struggling parents which later led her to become a foster parent.


In the 1940s, she provided short-term and long-term care for community children in her home. She also found permanent homes for children without homes and taught parents essential parenting skills. Hale became a foster mother and got a license and took in 7-8 children at a time. By 1947-1968, she had taken care of 40 foster children. As Mother Hale told the tale to Irene Verag of Newsday, "Before I knew it every pregnant addict in Harlem knew about the crazy lady who would give her baby a home."

Hale's father died when she was a baby. This left her mother alone to raise Hale and her four siblings. Her mother placed a very high importance on parenting and being available to her children during their development. She supported her children through cooking for others and also allowing boarders to stay in their home. It seems that Hale gained this same love and appreciation for parenting. Hale claimed that everything she was able to accomplish was due to her mother and the parenting that she witnessed as a child.


The seeds for the establishment of Hale House’s were sown in 1969 when Clara Hale's daughter, Lorraine, brought a mother and child who were addicted to drugs to Hale's home. Hale was then 64 years old, but she could not refuse the desperate pair. Indeed, she had no choice when the mother disappeared while Hale made a phone call in another room and left the baby behind. Hale took the tiny baby girl and nursed her through drug withdrawals. The young mother had other children, and when she returned to Hale's residence, she brought the others and left them, too. Eventually she returned to take the children back. Hale sent the family off with her blessing and never charged a penny for her help. Within a few short weeks Mother Hale's apartment was packed from wall to wall with 22 drug-addicted babies. Some of them were abandoned; some were orphaned. As Mother Hale told the tale to Irene Verag of Newsday, "Before I knew it every pregnant addict in Harlem knew about the crazy lady who would give her baby a home."

She later obtained a home license as a "child care facility" in 1970, called the Hale House. A few years later Hale purchased a larger building, a five-story home so there could be more space and more room to fit more, and in 1975 she was able to attain a license in child-care. It was officially known as Hale House. After that time, Hale devoted her life to caring for needy children. She took in children, free of charge, who were addicted to drugs and helped them through their addictive periods. She would raise the children as if they were her own, and once they were healthy she would help to find families interested in adoption. She took it upon herself to make sure the families were a correct fit and even in some cases turned families down if she thought they could not provide a good enough home for the child. She eventually helped over 1,000 drug addicted babies and young children who were born addicted to drugs, children born with HIV and children whose parents had died of AIDS. It was simple, she said; "hold them, rock them, love them and tell them how great they are."


Before long the benevolent work of the Hale family came to the attention of noteworthy philanthropic citizens and public assistance agencies. The Hales succeeded in securing a federal grant to renovate a five-story house on 122nd Street. The spacious Harlem brownstone was dubbed Hale House. Percy Sutton, the famed philanthropist and president of the Manhattan Borough, arranged public funding. John Lennon donated thousands of dollars to Hale House before he died, and the John Lennon Spirit Foundation perpetuated his generosity with annual contributions after his death. Other distinguished personalities also recognized the honorable work of Hale House and contributed generously throughout the years in support of the cause.


Mother Hale died of complications of a stroke December 18, 1992 at the age of 87. According to Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister at Riverside Church where she and her family were members, "She left instructions that there be no sad funerals." Her funeral took place on December 23 with over 2,000 people in attendance, including Mayor David Dinkins, Senator Alfonse D'Amato, former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, Representative Charles Rangel, Adam Clayton Powell IV, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, the Reverend Al Sharpton, Dr. Calvin O. Butts, Yoko Ono and her son, Sean Lennon.


She received an honorary doctorate from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and public service awards from the National Mother’s Day Committee and the Truman Award for Public Service. In 1985, during his State of the Union Address, President Ronald Reagan referred to Hale as an “American hero” for her commitment to at-risk children.


Hale House still functions today at 152 West 122nd Street, with a new leadership team. It continues to be an important part of the Harlem community, providing a warm, loving, nurturing home for infants and young children in need.


Sources for this post: biography.yourdictionary.com; wikipedia; blackpast.org; halehouse.org

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