OCTOBER 20: Frances Kellor (1873-1952)


The American investigator and
pioneering activist in the field of women’s and immigrant’s rights, Frances Kellor, was born on this day in 1873.

Frances poses for a photograph in 1910 (x).

Born on October 20, 1873, Frances
Alice Kellor grew up in Columbus, Ohio. When her father left the family when
Frances was just a child, she and her mother were left destitute. Her mother
was forced to leave the city to get work as a laundress and Frances eventually
had to drop out of high school in order to support her loved ones as well. Fortunately,
two sisters named Mary and Frances Eddy came to mentor her and eventually paid
for her to attend Cornell Law School and then the University of Chicago.

While at the University of
Chicago, Frances began studying sociology and researching the American prison
system. Her research would eventually culminate in her very first book, Experimental Sociology, in 1901. After
graduating, Frances worked as the secretary and treasurer of the New York State
Immigration Commission as well as the chief investigator for the Bureau of
Industries and Immigration of New York State. Her passion was for social
progress and progressive politics, focusing her work mainly on the treatment of
women and immigrants in the United States. Throughout her career, she would
work side by side fellow lesbian and sociologist Jane Addams at her Hull House,
and would write six books in total.

Frances (left) and her partner Mary (right) sit together in their Model T (x).

Although simply considered an old
maid and a Bostonian during her day, Frances was a lesbian. Her partner was Mary
Dreier, a wealthy New York Society woman turned social reformer. The two shared
an apartment and a life together in New York until Frances’s death on January 4, 1952. Today, Frances and Mary are buried next
to each other at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.