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date: 26 November 2020

Abbott, Gracefree

(1878–1939)
  • Jean K. QuamJean K. QuamJean K. Quam, M.S.W., Ph.D., is the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at the University of Minnesota. She was the director of the School of Social Work at Minnesota (which is administratively located in CEHD) for over sixteen years. Her Ph.D. was earned at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has research interests in social welfare history and gay and lesbian aging. For several years she taught a doctoral seminar on the history of social welfare.

Summary

Grace Abbott (1878–1939) was a teacher who went on to become Director of the Immigrants Protective League of Chicago and Director of the U.S. Children's Bureau. In 1934 she became professor of public welfare at the University of Chicago.

Grace Abbott, dynamic Director of the U.S. Children's Bureau, was most influential in her work with child labor legislation, immigrants, and social security. Born in Grand Island, Nebraska, two years after her sister, Edith Abbott, she graduated from Grand Island College in 1898 and became a teacher. From 1908 to 1917, she was Director of the Immigrants Protective League of Chicago and a resident of Hull-House. Julia Lathrop, first Director of the U.S. Children's Bureau and a former resident of Hull-House, encouraged Abbott to become interested in child labor problems. In 1917, at President Wilson's invitation, Abbott moved to Washington to administer the child labor law. She helped to organize the 1919 White House Conference on Children, succeeded Lathrop as Director of the U.S. Children's Bureau in 1921, and edited numerous U.S. Children's Bureau publications on infant and child care and training. Abbott served as president of the National Conference of Social Work in 1924.

In 1934 she returned to Chicago as professor of public welfare at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration. Abbott was also a member of the Advisory Council (1934–1935) that contributed to the establishment of the Social Security Act. Grace Abbott's writings, which reflect her professional experiences, include The Immigrant and the Community (1917); From Relief to Social Security (1941); and the two-volume classic, The Child and the State (1945). See also Two Sisters for Social Justice: A Biography of Grace and Edith Abbott (1983), by Lela B. Costin.