Clara McBride “Mother” Hale (April 1, 1905 – December 18, 1992) truly exemplified what it meant to be a nurturer and a mother, not only for her own children but the children, babies and mothers who suffered from addiction, homelessness and more in the community.
Clara McBride was the daughter of James McBride, a dock worker and Elizabeth McBride, owner of a boarding house. Her journey and inspiration began when she was a little girl with the unfortunate passing of her father. Her mother, then, had to take on the role of her family’s primary caretaker which included Clara and her three other siblings.
As Clara got older, she married Thomas Hale and had two children. At the age of 27, Thomas died of cancer which forced Clara to take on domestic jobs in order to keep up her family’s livelihood. She cleaned theaters and homes for a living. However, she wasn’t comfortable leaving her children alone at home while at work. So, she decided to stay home and watch other people’s children for money.
Contributions To the Community
In the 1940s while living in Harlem, Mrs. Hale began to help homeless children find homes while also helping to teach parents how to care for their children. She got her license in to become a foster parent which enabled her to help many more children who were in need for $2 per child/week.
In 1969, Hale retired from fostering.
Aiding Families with Addictions
One night Clara’s daughter, Loraine Hale, ran into a woman and her two-month-old baby who was addicted to heroin. She referred her to her mother who in turned helped the woman and baby recover.
Word spread fast and before she knew it 22 drug addicted infants were in her care.
Helping the HIV/AIDS Community
By 1969 her desire to help infants and very young children spread even further, not only to help those who were afflicted with addictions but to also reach those who became orphans due to losing their parents to AIDS.
Hale House was a place Clara Hale has established for mothers and their children with drug addictions to heal from. In 1970, Borough of Manhattan President, Percy E. Sutton, helped Mrs. Hale renovate a five-story building in Harlem to help accommodate all the children. It had a floor for preschool and play, another for detoxed babies and another for new arrivals.
Take a virtual tour of Hale House here.
In 1975, Hale House became a licensed child-care facility and the only African American voluntary child-care agency in the United States.
Clara McBride Hale’s reach went even further, collaborating with local hospitals to help rehabilitate the children while their mothers finished their own treatments. Her program had a 90% reunion rate between mother and child.
Inspired by her work in 1986, New York helped finance Hale House as well as another Harlem project that gave apartments to recovering addicts and their children. During the mayorship of Abraham Beame and Edward Koch Hale received waivers from state regulations banning group nurseries for children under five.
Despite all the great works Clara McBride Hale has done for the local community, Mayor David Dinkins stopped the waivers for Hale House for foster care. In 1990, they wanted to shut down the program and they withdrew funds from Hale House.
However, the community wasn’t having it. They loved the work of Hale House so much that donations and referrals came pouring in from local police, parents and more. She managed to raise over tens of thousands of dollars which enabled an expansion of the program. This allowed Hale House to further aid individuals into housing and education for mothers after they have completed their detox, homes for mothers and children affected with AIDS and youth training programs.
By 1991, Hale House was responsible for healing over 1,000 babies and toddlers.
Awards and Recognitions
- Honorary Doctorate from John Jay College of Criminal Justice
- Public Service Award from National Mother’s Day Committee
- Truman Award for Public Service
- Was lauded an “American Hero” by President Ronald Regan during the 1985 State of the Union Address.
- Urban League (NY Chapter) gave the “League Building Bricks Award”
- 1987- Both Community Service Award and Leonard H. Carter Humanitarian Award (Highest Honors from the Salvation Army)
It is no wonder, with all the contributions Clara “Mother Hale” has received that title. She has done so much for the local community. She helped addicted infants, toddlers and mothers to heal from their addictions. Hale gave guidance to help provide stability in the lives of those suffering from HIV and AIDS through referrals for housing. It takes a true heart and care to want to be an asset to the community. Clara McBride “Mother” Hale was a true humanitarian for the people.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in another hero for children, Dr. Alexa Canady: Pioneer In Pediatric Neurosurgery here.