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ERIC Number: EJ874705
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2006-Jan
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 8
ISSN: ISSN-1541-6224
Women in History--Grace Abbott: A Leader in Social Reform
Hoffman, Shari Cole
Journal of Women in Educational Leadership, v4 n1 p3-6 Jan 2006
This article profiles Grace Abbott, one of the earlier 20th century American women leaders in Progressivism. Abbott's heritage influenced her lifetime commitment to social improvement. She was born on November 17, 1878 in Grand Island, Nebraska into a family of activists. Her Quaker mother, Elizabeth Griffin Abbott, came from an abolitionist family and participated in the Underground Railroad. Elizabeth was also actively involved in the women's suffrage movement and often hosted suffrage meetings and events in her home. Her father, Othman Ali Abbott, a Canadian abolitionist, served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He read law in Illinois and in 1867 moved to Nebraska and established his law practice. A leader in state politics, he became a state senator and eventually the lieutenant governor, where he was pivotal in the creation of Nebraska laws protecting female workers. The Abbott's values and interests in social justice had a prevailing influence on all four of their children, but especially on Grace and her older sister, Edith, who also became a well-known social reformer. Their parent's ardent convictions in equal rights for women seemed to set a personal and professional course that Grace followed until her death in 1939. The lifetime achievements of Grace entailed numerous firsts. She administered the first federal child labor laws that kept many children under 16 out of oppressive working conditions. These child labor laws were often referred to as "the acid test of progressivism." She oversaw the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Act of 1921, the first federally funded social welfare measure in the United States. The Act distributed federal matching grants to the states for prenatal and child health clinics, nutrition and hygiene information, midwife training, and nursing visits for pregnant women and new mothers. In 1922, Grace was the first American appointed to a League of Nations committee. At one time, she was the highest-ranking most powerful woman in the United States government, yet she stayed the course in what she believed. Through her leadership example of forging a path for other women to follow, individuals learned to work together to make a collective difference in the lives of those in need. As a leader and throughout her lifetime, Grace embodied what was best about Progressivism. She not only provided a voice for those too poor or too young to protect themselves, but she took actions to help those who could not help themselves.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A