Immigrant Aid Worker

Red Cross representatives distributing pastries and beverages at a dock in New York.

Library of Congress

Throughout the years, numerous organizations offered aid to immigrants at Ellis Island. Many of these immigrant aid societies maintained permanent representatives on Ellis Island. Known under several titles, including missionary, chaplain, agent, port worker, matron, and social worker, the dedicated men and women of these organizations provided many things, from counseling, guidance, information, translation, money, food, clothing, reading material, gifts, and religious instruction and services.

Organizations assisting immigrants on the island included the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), the Salvation Army, and the Traveler's Aid Society. Additionally there were culturally specific needs met by ethnic Italian, German, Polish, Lithuanian and Spanish branches of the Roman Catholic church's St. Raphael's Society, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and National Council of Jewish Women, the White Rose Mission, specifically for Carribbean women, and various other societies exclusively for Belgians, Bulgarians, Dutch, Greeks, Italians, Hungarians, Poles and Russians.

YMCA social welfare worker Ludmila Foxlee with an immigrant girl on Ellis Island c. 1920s. Foxlee is dressed in peasant garb.

National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM

Ludmila Foxlee (1885-1971) Social Worker

Mrs. Ludmila Kuchar Foxlee was one of the best-known social workers on Ellis Island. Hired by the Y.W.C.A. following the end of the First World War, she was employed at the station from 1920 to 1937. Foxlee made her mark by helping thousands of detained European immigrants of the Christian faith - Protestants, Eastern Orthodox and Catholics. Being a Czech immigrant herself (1890 at the age of 4), Ludmila Kuchar Foxlee understood and appreciated the cultural values, customs and traditions of these newcomers.

Foxlee kept meticulous records and handled an extraordinary number of cases. In the mid 1920's, she caught the attention of the press by posing with newly arrived immigrants in colorful folk costumes and then immediately afterward in stylish American clothes. In this way, she demonstrated the first step many immigrants took to assimilate to their new country. A lively singer and entertainer, she also helped to organize and run the Ellis Island Annual Christmas parties and other festivities set up for detainees and deportees.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Receiving Office
1 Ellis Island

Jersey City, NJ 07305


212 363-3200

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