Who was Sara Curry? This young transplant came to the city in the late 19th century and witnessed a tragic accident that strengthened her resolve to make working with poor children her life’s mission.
Born in Utica in 1863, Curry was orphaned as a child and went to work in a local factory.
There, she “studied the problems of other girls who worked long hours for a living,” her New York Times obituary noted. “In her spare time, she devoted her energies to helping them.”
He arranged for Curry to come to New York in 1894 and help run a nursery for poor working mothers at the Mariner’s Temple, a circa-1795 Baptist Church on Henry Street. That led her to do missionary work in Chinatown with the disadvantaged, and then, in 1896, her true calling.
“One day, on seeing a child crushed by a truck, she resolved to devote her life mainly to children,” stated the Times. The child was one of thousands of “street Arabs” who roamed the city in the late 19th century, because their parents worked or they had no homes to go to.
In 1901, the nursery, now funded by benefactors, moved to larger quarters at 93 St. Marks Place, the heart of the city’s Kleindeutschland. There, Curry helped care for 200 children of poor mothers who had to work and had no safe place to bring their young children.
Called the Little Missionary’s Day Nursery , it was an homage to Curry’s small stature and nickname “Little Angel of the Missions.”
“Miss Curry never lost sight of social conditions in the children’s background, wrote the Times.
“She made thousands of visits to their parents, visited the sick, served Thanksgiving dinner by the hundreds.”
Sara Curry died in 1940. But her nursery school still exists on St. Marks Place.
[Top photo: Little Missionary’s Day Nursery; bottom: Good Housekeeping, 1904]
Tags: 19th century charities New York City, 19th century missions New York, Kleindeutschland, Little Missionary's Day Nursery, nursery schools 19th century New York, Sara Curry, St. Marks Place, The Poor in New York City