A Rich History of Over 200 Years
Founded in New York City in 1806 by a group of dedicated forward-looking women, including Isabella Graham and Elizabeth (Mrs. Alexander) Hamilton, Graham Windham has been meeting the needs of New York City’s poorest, most vulnerable children for more than two centuries!
Two hundred years of continuous service is an outstanding record for any institution, especially a child welfare organization. In 200 years, we have seen dramatic societal changes and upheaval, including the Civil War, industrialization, pandemic disease, two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights Movement and epidemic levels of drug abuse and associated diseases like HIV/AIDS, and we have witnessed their profound effects on our children and families. Over the same time, we have experienced a revolutionary change in our approach to child care as institution, permanent family reunification and/or adoption.
And yet, many of the principles that guided our founders, and many of the basic needs they sought to meet, have remained constant. The Orphan Asylum Society of the City of New York (which evolved into The Graham Home for Children) was established to care for and educate parentless children regardless of their financial resources. In 1835, The Society for the Relief of Half-Orphan and Destitute Children (which evolved into Windham Child Care) was established to enable widowed parents to work while their children were safely and properly educated and cared for. Then, as today, the agencies that would eventually become the combined Graham Windham were dedicated to providing safety, stability, education and family for those children whose own families were unable to do so.
The history of Graham Windham that follows offers not only a broad study in the evolution of child welfare in America, but also a compelling story of perseverance, persistence and caring on the part of so many over the years in support of New York City’s most vulnerable population.
Historic Photo Gallery
On March 15, 1806, the Orphan Asylum Society – the first such in New York State – is founded by Elizabeth Hamilton, widow of Alexander Hamilton, Isabella Graham, and Johanna Bethune. Its first home is a two-story frame house on Raisin Street in Greenwich Village. More than 200 children seek its protection, but it can provide shelter for only 16 children.
The children line up on the banks of the Hudson River near the railroad tracks to see President Abraham Lincoln pass on his way to his inauguration in Washington, D.C.
When the Johnstown, PA flood occurs, the children offer $20 of their savings to be sent to those affected by the flood.
Some of the boys enlist and serve in World War I.
113 Christmas baskets are sent to boys enlisted in World War II.
A new fundraising campaign is undertaken by the board, one in a long line of such.
The Windham Society merges with Protestant Children’s Services and is the first to secure placement for African-American children.
Through the generosity of alumni and Western movie star, William Boyd, better known as Hopalong Cassidy, an outdoor swimming pool is built on the campus grounds.
The Brooklyn Day Care Center is one of the first preschools established in a low-income public housing project.
Windham Child Care merges with the Graham Home for Children to create Graham Windham.
The Isabella Graham award is established. The first recipient is the late Jim Henson. Arthur Ashe is the second recipient.
Graham Windham celebrates 200 years with The Bicentennial Ball featuring honorary chairs First Lady Laura Bush, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Charles E. Schumer and Governor George Pataki.
Our Archives are now at the New York Historical Society!
The Graham Windham Archives collection was created and established and then re-established over two centuries, during the last decade of the 20th century and the first of the 21st century. In 2011, our archives were added to the collection at the New-York Historical Society, preserving over 200 years of documentation about who we are and the countless children we have served in our long history. Explore Graham Windham’s records at the New-York Historical Society