The Florence Kelley papers document the professional career and family life of the Progressive-era social reformer. The papers include correspondence with her grandparents Isaac and Elizabeth Pugh, her parents William Bartram Kelley and Caroline Bonsall and her children Nicholas, William Darrah, Jr., John Bartram and Margaret Kelley. Kelley's professional correspondence documents her commitment to social reform, from her time at Hull House in Chicago to her tenure as general secretary of the National Consumers' League. The collection also includes manuscripts and typescripts of Kelley's writings, address books, scrapbooks, photographs, and a few items of ephemera.
Biographical/historical: Florence Kelley was a prominent Progressive-Era social reformer known for her advocacy of protective legislation on behalf of working women and children. She was born in 1859, the daughter of William Darrah Kelley, U.S. Congressman from Philadelphia, and his second wife Caroline Bonsall. Kelley graduated from Cornell University in 1882 and pursued graduate study in law and government at the University of Zurich in 1883. While in Europe she began translating the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and began a long-standing correspondence with Engels. In 1884 she married Polish socialist Lazare Wischnewetzky. The couple moved to New York City, but divorced in 1891. Kelley took their three young children, Nicholas (1885-1965), Margaret (1886-1905) and John (1888-1968) with her to Chicago where she began living and working at Jane Addams' Hull House.
During her years of work in the settlement house movement in Chicago, Kelley participated in the documentation of urban poverty, was appointed Chief Factory Inspector by Illinois Governor John P. Altgeld, and obtained a law degree from Northwestern University. In 1899 she returned to New York to assume the leadership of the National Consumers League, an organization created to harness the purchasing power of the public to support firms with good labor practices and boycott others. She remained with the organization for over thirty years.
Kelley's strong Quaker background influenced her pacifist opposition to the U.S. entry into World War I, a stance for which she faced persistent public attack. Her continued efforts on behalf of public health and welfare helped create the Sheppard-Towner Act of 1921, authorizing federal aid to states in order to reduce infant mortality and improve maternal and child health care.
Kelley lived near Gramercy Park in New York City and also kept a home in Naskeag, Brooklin, Maine. She died in 1932.
Content: The Florence Kelley papers document her professional career in social reform and family life as a single mother. The collection is an important resource for the history of governmental responsibility for social welfare, 1890 to 1930. The collection provides insight into the background of the Progressive-era reform movement in European socialism and in the abolitionist, suffragist tradition of Quakerism. Kelley's papers contain important documents on women's education, child labor, and evidence of Kelley's activities at Hull House in Chicago, as chief factory inspector under Illinois Governor John P. Altgeld, and as general secretary of the National Consumers League after 1899. Materials include personal and professional correspondence of Kelley and her parents William Bartram Kelley and Caroline Bonsall, manuscripts and typescripts, address books, news clippings; scrapbooks; photographs; and a few items of ephemera.
Acquisition: Received from Augusta M. Kelley, 1973 and 1975