Pearl N. Shiling, Social Worker

July 14, 2009|By Jacques Kelly

Pearl N. Shiling, a retired Maryland Health Department social worker who helped established sexual assault care centers, died of cancer Friday at the Gilchrist Hospice Center. The North Baltimore resident was 90.

She was born Pearl Neiman in Baltimore to Israel and Esther Neiman, two immigrants from Eastern Europe. She grew up in East Baltimore and on Fairview Avenue. She was a 1937 graduate of Forest Park High School.

In 1939, while a Goucher College student, she married Rueben Shiling, an attorney whom she had met on a Druid Hill Park tennis court.

She went on to graduate with a degree in biology. After raising a daughter and a son, she worked in social work at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and commuted to Philadelphia to earn a master's degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania.

She then worked at Jewish Family Services. She received a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins in the early 1970s and worked until her retirement in the mid-1980s at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in its prevention section.

"Pearl was the chief of social work in the preventive medicine administration and she helped establish the first rape and sexual assault care centers in Maryland hospitals. Before that time, rape victims were taken to police stations," said a co-worker, Joan Stine of Ellicott City.

She recalled that Mrs. Shiling heard about a sexual assault program in New York City and visited it with colleagues.

"When Pearl wanted something to happen, she was relentless," Stine said. "She was very much an advocate for people who didn't have a voice."

Mrs. Shiling also helped set up family planning programs in Maryland's state-run mental hospitals.

She continued to play tennis until she was in her 70s and enjoyed reading English literature.

"She loved squeezing oranges in the morning and cooking chicken and brisket," said her grandson, Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Baltimore's former health commissioner who is now a federal Food and Drug Administration official. "She also loved spending time in the museums of Baltimore."

She had been a Meals on Wheels volunteer and was involved with the Kosher Food Bank and other Jewish charities.

In addition to her grandson, survivors include a son, Dr. David Shiling of Norwich, Conn.; a daughter, Dr. Margaret Sharfstein of Baltimore; a sister, Florence Kelmenson of Baltimore; five other grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Her husband of 68 years died in 2008.

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