The Abbott Sisters Living Legacy Project.
“To me there was something about Grace Abbott which always suggested Joan of Arc.” -- U.S. Representative Edward Keating, 1939
“Grace Abbott rendered service of inestimable value to the children and mothers and fathers of our country. I have long followed her work and been in hearty accord with the policies and plans which she has developed.” -- U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt
GRACE ABBOTT (1878-1939) is among the greatest champions of children's rights in American history. As chief of the United States Children's Bureau (1921-1934), Abbott was a vigorous leader in the early 20th century fight against child labor and was a longtime crusader for improved child and maternal health care. The press of her day referred to her as "Mother of America's 43 million children."
A trusted associate of Nobel Prize-winner Jane Addams, Abbott was a longtime Hull House resident who also made significant contributions to the field of immigration rights during her tenure as director of the influential Immigrants’ Protective League (1908-1921).
Grace Abbott was among the first female broadcasters to a national audience ("Your Child" NBC, 1920s), and her trailblazing social service work has been credited with making significant contributions to the creation of the Social Security Act and the United Nation's UNICEF program.
Grace Abbott led fights against child labor in the coal mines of West Virginia and in the factories of Massachusetts. She championed the cause of infant and child health care from the slums of Chicago to the villages of the Appalachian Mountains. She is credited with saving thousands of children’s and immigrants’ lives and improving those of millions more. Through her work, she helped to bring health care and financial assistance to mothers and infants who, in earlier days, had been abandoned to sickness and death. Her many impressive achievements led her to become the first woman in U.S. history to be nominated for a Presidential cabinet post (proposed as secretary of labor for Herbert Hoover) and to be the first person sent to represent the U.S. at a committee of the League of Nations.
At the time of Grace Abbott's death, in 1939, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt called Abbott "one of the great women of our day ... a definite strength which we could count on for use in battle."
“The great hymn of all social service is to preserve the self-respect of the people we are working with and for.” -- Edith Abbott, 1945
EDITH ABBOTT (1876-1957), elder sister and lifelong colleague of Grace Abbott, was among the most important Americans involved in the establishment of social work as a profession -- requiring not merely the “good intentions” of its practitioners, but a scrupulous intellectual education and rigorous practical training.
Abbott was a key figure in the creation of the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration, which was one of the first programs of social work -- perhaps the very first -- at a great U.S. university. She became dean of the school in 1924: the first woman in U.S. history to be named the dean of a major American university graduate school.
She was the co-founder in 1927 of the renowned publication "Social Service Review" and was also its longtime editor; she was named president of the American Association of Schools of Social Work from 1925 to 1927; she was appointed to the Wickersham Commission (National Committee on Law Enforcement and Observance) in the late 1920s; and was the president of the National Conference of Social Work in 1937.
At the time of Edith Abbott’s death in 1957, Wayne McMillen of "Social Service Review" wrote, “History will include her name among the handful of leaders who have made enduring contributions to the field of education. Social work has now taken its place as an established profession. She, more than any other one person, gave direction to the education required for that profession. Posterity will not forget achievements such as these.”