(1859 – 1932)
Florence Kelley, A Woman of Fierce Fidelity
Florence Kelley is considered one of the great contributors to the social rights of workers, particularly women and children. She is best known as a prominent Progressive social reformer known for her role in helping to improve social conditions of the twentieth century. She has been described as a woman of fierce fidelity (Goldmark, 1953). Kelley was a leading voice in the labor, suffragette, children’s and civil rights movements. She was also a well-educated and successful woman, a rare combination during the turn of the twentieth century.
Kelley was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 12, 1859 to Quaker parents, William Darrah Kelley and his second wife, Caroline Bartram. Her father was a self-educated man who left his business to become an abolitionist, a judge and an activist for a number of political and social reforms. Kelley had two brothers and five sisters; however, all five sisters died in childhood. The childhood memory of the deaths of her five sisters influenced Kelley’s lifelong fight for government funds for maternal and child health services.
The political climate during the life of Kelley and the influences of her family, education, travels and friendships contributed to her commitment to social reform. It was these influences that led this determined woman to have a profound impact on the quality of life for many individuals during her life and thereafter. Let’s examine these influences in more detail for a better understanding of this remarkable woman and reformer.
Kelley had the good fortune to grow up in a progressive, cultured and affluent family. It was a family actively devoted to social reform and this devotion influenced Kelley. She was educated at home for most of her childhood due to being sickly as a child. Her father taught her to read at age seven and made his extensive library available to her. Her father also influenced her... [continues]
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