Zelda Foster

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Zelda Foster (August 8, 1934 - July 4, 2006 Park Slope, Brooklyn) was a social worker who was a leader in the hospice movement. [1] Foster also taught at the Columbia School of Social Work and was director of children's mental health at the Children's Aid Society.[2]


Early life[edit]

She was born Zelda Phyllis Leader to Nathan and Ida Leader, owners of a candy store in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. She is a 1955 graduate of Brooklyn College and earned a master’s degree in 1957[3] from the Columbia University School of Social Work. Foster died in her home from cancer.[2]


She was a caseworker at Maimonides Medical Center when she graduated from Columbia and in 1959, went to work for the Brooklyn V.A. hospital.[2]

Hospice Movement[edit]

In an article that appeared in the November 1965 issue of the Journal of the National Association of Social Workers, Foster wrote about the "conspiracy of silence" that dying hospital patients faced. She based the article on her professional experiences at the VA, saying that "for the first time, … the majority of patients were considered capable of understanding the nature of their diseases.'"[2] She was a co-founder of the first Hospice Association in New York.[4]


The Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End-of-Life Care at the New York University Silver School of Social Work is named after her.[5]

In 2005, the Columbia University School of Social Work Hall of Fame inducted her as a Pioneer.[3]


  1. ^ Davidson, Kay & Bullock, Karen (2007). "Zelda Foster and Her Contributions to Social Work in End-of-Life Care". Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life & Palliative Care. 3, 2007 - Issue 1 (1): 69–82. doi:10.1300/J457v03n01_11. PMID 18072663. S2CID 20473710.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b c d Hevesi, Dennis (July 13, 2006). "Zelda Foster, 71, Pioneer in Hospice Care, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 March 2023.
  3. ^ a b "CSSW HALL OF FAME and PIONEER INDUCTEES" (PDF). Columbia University School of Social Work. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  4. ^ Warner, Gregory (July 5, 2006). "Hospice Advocate Zelda Foster Has Died". All Things Considered. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  5. ^ "Zelda Foster Studies". New York University. Retrieved 20 March 2023.