Dubbed the Queen of the Poles, Valeria Lipczynski was a dynamic figure in the Grand Rapids immigrant community from the time of her arrival at age 23. Emigrating from Prussian occupied Poland in 1869 when fewer than a dozen Polish families lived in Grand Rapids, Lipczynski worked as a local correspondent to several national Polish newspapers to recruit families to the city- and took care of them when they got here. She delivered babies, found jobs, taught English, American history, and good citizenship.
She was a one-woman settlement house, helping women into respectable positions and encouraging fellow immigrants to seek political office by organizing the Polish Democratic Club. Among other social, political, and religious groups, Lipczynski helped found religious institutions such as St. Adalbert, St. Isidore, and Sacred Heart and cultural organizations such as the Lutnia-Halka Men’s & Women’s Choir and the Wiarus Society to maintain Polish customs and traditions
Grand Rapids couldn’t contain this Polish powerhouse. She joined the Polish National Alliance (PNA), largest Polish fraternal organization in the U.S. and founded the Society of Polish Ladies. In 1899 it became the first women’s organization admitted to the PNA. By 1901 Lipczynski had become the first and only woman delegate to a PNA national convention and by 1905, she was the first woman elected to its board of directors. Soon thereafter, she was designated commissioner-at-large for the entire United States.
During World War I Lipczynski’s home became a center for Polish relief work in Europe. She collected clothing and supplies and raised money for the Polish cause. She saw a free and independent Poland return to the map of Europe in 1918. For her efforts, Lipczynski was awarded the General Haller Swords medal, and in 1925 the Polish government bestowed on her the prestigious Golden Cross of Merit for her patriotic services during World War I, her earlier efforts for immigrants, and her work with the PNA. This whirlwind of a woman deserved every one of her medals!
This article can also be found in the April 2019 issue of the Grand Rapids Women’s Lifestyle Magazine.
Valeria Lipczynski Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame Biography
“Mme. Valeria Lipczynska: Queen of the Poles, Angel of Mercy”. MIGenWeb. 16 February 1930.