Clara McBride Hale



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Biography

Clara McBride Hale, better known as Mother Hale, changed the lives of hundreds of children and families during the entirety of the twentieth century. A resident of New York for most of her lifetime, Hale is known for her work supporting some of the most vulnerable children in New York City.

Born in 1905, Clara spent her adolescent years in Philadelphia until she married Thomas Hale and moved to New York City. By her early 30s, Clara was raising two children with her husband until his untimely death in 1938. This event left Clara the daunting mission of earning a livelihood for herself and children all on her own. One of the most important goals that she had for her children was to provide them access to a good education. To accomplish these goals, Hale cared for children from the neighborhood in her home.[1] Clara Hale had a special talent for nurturing children.[2] She eventually took children into her home for longer periods of time, now providing both day care and long-term care.[3]

In order to care for even more children, Hale acquired a foster license in 1960. Nine years later, the sixty-four year old was planning on retiring when an unanticipated event once again changed her path. Her daughter, Lorraine, saw a woman on the street exhibiting the side effects of drug consumption, while at the same time struggling to hold onto her baby. Lorraine advised the woman to see Mother Hale, who realized that the child was addicted to the mother’s drug habits as well and took the child under her wing. This event motivated Hale to once again open her home to children, this time to babies born with drug addictions who needed special care to detoxify their bodies.[4]

To care for the many children affected by this sad condition, Mother Hale moved to a larger living space in Harlem and named the location Hale House. The work of Mother Hale now developed into a formal organization dedicated to improving the lives of “children and families in need of support.”[5]

The heart-warming work of Clara McBride Hale has not gone unnoticed. Along with receiving over 370 awards, Hale was mentioned in President Ronald Reagan’s 1985 State of the Union Address,[6] in which he proclaimed her “an American hero.”[7]


Challenge Discussion

The practice that Mother Hale dedicated her life to is family. In her earlier years, she cared for children as a profession to support her own family. Later, she took on a more permanent role in children’s lives by allowing young children to live with her for long and short periods of time. Finally, she created an institution to systematically care for sick children and their parents, who reached out to her for support while they worked to overcome unhealthy habits.

The personal and institutional challenge that Clara Hale spent her whole life trying to overcome was poverty. Hale first battled this hurdle on a personal level when her husband died, leaving her to raise their children on her own. She was determined to support her children and provide them with a quality education. Clara was able to earn money through caring for children in her home in order to support her family and avoid falling into poverty. After overcoming this challenge in her own life, she spent the remainder of her lifetime helping others overcome the same burden.

Mother Hale had a natural ability to achieve the standard of excellence in her practice. One standard of excellence for the practice of family is ensuring children have a healthy childhood and the tools necessary to help them succeed in the future.[8] In her daily activities, Mother Hale accomplished this standard. She not only provided a healthy environment for the children, free of drugs and other unhealthy conditions of poverty, but also nurtured each child. In a 1984 New York Times article, Hale told the reporter how she handles the children, “there’s nothing much I can do but hold her and tell her: ‘I love you and God loves you and your mamma loves you.’”[9] She told another journalist two years later, “I tell them how pretty they are and what they can accomplish if they get an education … and I tell them to be proud of their Blackness, to be proud of one another, and to pull together.”[10] Her message to the children was that they must not only survive as adults, but also flourish and succeed.

Clara Hale was a strong woman who never let personal pressures prevent her from caring for children or lowering her standard of excellence. The personal pressure that she ignored to pursue her practice was aging. By 1969, Clara had spent thirty years caring for vulnerable infants in her apartment of only five rooms.[11] [12] She had reached the age of retirement when any working adult would feel that they had earned a break. Instead of retiring, Clara opened the Hale House to continue caring for children. The organization’s website describes Hale’s unrelenting dedication, “even when a full-time staff was in charge of the organization, Mother Hale continued to live with and care for the children at the brownstone until she passed away on December 18, 1992.”[13]


Virtue Discussion

The virtue that Clara Hale exhibited in her inspirational lifetime was loving kindness. She used the virtue of loving kindness whenever she interacted with children. She employed this virtue to achieve a high standard of excellence in her practice.

Choice-Worthy Good

The choice-worthy good that Mother Hale constantly chose over all other factors was respect for all human beings. Over the years, Mother Hale took children into her home, no matter what condition they were in. She nurtured babies regardless of skin color,[14] born with drug addictions and HIV, homeless children and orphans.[15] If a child was in need of love and care, Mother Hale opened her arms to him or her. In addition, Mother Hale did not look down upon the children’s mothers who needed support too. One mother, whose baby was under Mother Hale’s care while she received treatment for a cocaine addiction, told the New York Times, “she looks past the fact that I’m an addict.”[16] Hale House strives to reunite children with their mother when she is ready. A 1984 news article reported that only 11 of the 497 children who had spent time at Hale House did not return to their mothers and were adopted.[17] Mother Hale not only respected and supported the children that come to her under no fault of their own, but also the mothers that found themselves living an unhealthy lifestyle who wanted to change their behaviors.

Cultural Ill

The cultural ill that Clara Hale spent her entire life trying to eliminate is poverty. The children that Mother Hale cared for were some of the most vulnerable in New York City, by no choice of their own. The Hale House website testifies, “with each decade, Mother Hale and Hale House have responded to the challenges struggling families have had to endure due to the crippling effects of poverty.”[18] These young children were dealing with and witnessing homelessness, drug addiction, HIV infections, and incarcerated family members.[19] Despite this cultural ill, Mother Hale followed her choice-worthy good and took them under her wing to ensure that they survived and flourished. The challenge that Hale faced in attacking this cultural ill was the magnitude and gravity of the problems these children faced. Hale explained in a news article that she did not necessarily know how to help a baby that was born with a drug addiction,[20] but this hurdle did not stop her from nurturing the child. During the 1980s, Mother Hale recognized the destruction that HIV and AIDS were causing across America. She addressed the problem through her practice, opening her door to children with HIV,[21] despite the extreme fear of the disease at the time.

Mother Hale attracted national attention to her work and the cultural ill that she was fighting against. Newspaper and magazine journalists featured Hale’s story and selfless work in publications, raising America’s awareness of the heart-wrenching struggles for children in the city. President Ronald Reagan was so impressed with her work that he included her story in his 1985 State of the Union Address.[22]

Clara Hale passed away in 1992, however her work is being carried on by others who share the same passion. Hale House is still operating two main programs in Harlem: the Mother Hale Learning Center, a daycare and education center for infants, and the Supportive Transitional Housing Program for single parents and their children.[23] During her lifetime, Mother Hale was able to care for and raise hundreds of children in her home and organization as well as aid their parents. Today, her leadership has inspired others to carry on her mission by maintaining Hale House so that more children and parents in the future can feel the same love and support that Mother Hale exhibited and have a chance at improving their lives.

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Fleming


Works cited

Johnson, Herschel. “Clara (Mother) Hale: HEALING BABY ‘JUNKIES’ WITH LOVE.” Ebony 41, no. 7 (May 1986): 58-62. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed November 3, 2013).

"'Mamma Hale' Gives Home to Babies of Addicts." New York Times (1923-Current File), Mar 12, 1984. http://search.proquest.com/docview/122369436?accountid=13320.

“Our initiatives.” Hale House Center, Inc. 2012. Accessed November 3, 2013. http://halehouse.org/?page=our-initiatives.

Ronald Reagan: "Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union," February 6, 1985. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=38069.

“Who we are.” Hale House Center, Inc. 2012. Accessed November 3, 2013. http://halehouse.org/?page=who-we-are.
  1. ^ “Who we are.” Hale House Center, Inc. 2012. Accessed November 3, 2013. http://halehouse.org/?page=who-we-are.
  2. ^ Johnson, Herschel. “Clara (Mother) Hale: HEALING BABY ‘JUNKIES’ WITH LOVE.” Ebony 41, no. 7 (May 1986): 58-62. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed November 3, 2013).
  3. ^ "Who we are."
  4. ^ "Who we are."
  5. ^ "Who we are."
  6. ^ "Who we are."
  7. ^ Ronald Reagan: "Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union," February 6, 1985. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=38069.
  8. ^ Johnson, 1986.
  9. ^ "'Mamma Hale' Gives Home to Babies of Addicts." New York Times (1923-Current File), Mar 12, 1984. http://search.proquest.com/docview/122369436?accountid=13320.
  10. ^ Johnson, 1986, p. 60.
  11. ^ "Who we are."
  12. ^ Johnson, 1986.
  13. ^ "Who we are."
  14. ^ Johnson, 1986.
  15. ^ "Who we are."
  16. ^ "'Mamma Hale' Gives Home to Babies of Addicts."
  17. ^ "'Mamma Hale' Gives Home to Babies of Addicts."
  18. ^ "Who we are."
  19. ^ "Who we are."
  20. ^ Johnson, 1986.
  21. ^ "Who we are."
  22. ^ "Who we are."
  23. ^ “Our initiatives.” Hale House Center, Inc. 2012. Accessed November 3, 2013. http://halehouse.org/?page=our-initiatives.