• TitleGuide to the Sophonisba P. Breckinridge Papers1905-1949
  • PublisherUniversity of Chicago Library
  • LanguageEnglish
  • Date1905-1949
  • Physical Description2.5 linear feet (2 boxes)
  • RepositorySpecial Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.
  • AbstractSophonisba P. Breckinridge (1866-1948) was a social scientist and social work educator. The papers include manuscripts of her unfinished autobiography which describes residents at Hull House; correspondence; newspaper clippings; data from a study on Americanization (1918-1919); and sales and royalty records of her books. Correspondents include Jane Addams and Julia Lathrop.

© The contents of this finding aid are the copyright of the University of Chicago Library



Sociology and Social Welfare

University of Chicago - Founding and Early History

Gender Studies and Sexuality

The collection is open for research.

When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Breckinridge, Sophonisba P. Papers, [Box #, Folder #], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge was born April 1, 1866, in Lexington, Kentucky, the daughter of William C. P. Breckinridge and Issa Desha. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1888, and in 1895 was admitted to the Kentucky bar. Her law practice did not prosper, and a Wellesley classmate, May Cook, persuaded her to go to the University of Chicago to take a position as secretary to Marion Talbot, the Dean of Women.

Breckinridge received a Ph.M. degree from the University of Chicago in 1897 and a Ph.D. in political science and economics in 1901. In 1904 she became the first woman to receive the J.D. degree from the University. She taught briefly in the Department of Political Science and then joined Talbot in the Department of Household Administration, becoming an assistant professor in 1909. She also served as head of Green Hall, one of the women's dormitories, and resided there for most of her career.

While teaching at the University, Breckinridge spent her summers at Hull-House and became involved with many of the activities there. She also worked at the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, serving as its dean, and was instrumental in the merger of the school with the University to form the School of Social Service Administration in 1920. Her teaching, research, and publications helped to define social work as a profession and mold it into an academic discipline. She was made a full professor in 1925, and was named Samuel Deutsch Professor of Public Welfare Administration in 1929, remaining active until a few months before her death in 1948.

The collection is divided into two series: General and Oversize.

Series I contains excerpts of an autobiography and a small amount of correspondence. Correspondents include Jane Addams and Julia Lathrop. Other material includes newspaper clippings, biographical materials, articles, a speech, and records of sales and royalties of Breckinridge's books. Of possible interest to researchers are a few records of home visits to immigrant families for a study of Americanization in 1918-1919.

The autobiography found in Folders 2 through 13 consists of manuscript and typescript fragments, some of which bear dates between 1944 and 1947. The drafts of various sections have been arranged to follow Sophonisba Breckinridge's own outline, although there is considerable overlap in the narrative. Much of the material concerns Breckinridge's family background, and includes portraits of her grandparents, her father, her sister Curry and brother Desha. Sophonisba Breckinridge also wrote about her early years at the University of Chicago, particularly during her term as assistant to Marion Talbot, and her account includes anecdotes and asides about co-education, race relations on campus, and student life in general.

The oversize series contains a poster from the Hyde Park League of Women Voters.

The following related resources are located in the Department of Special Collections:

  • Names
    • Breckinridge, Sophonisba Preston
    • Addams, Jane
    • Lathrop, Julia Clifford
    • Hull House (Chicago, IL)
    • University of Chicago. School of Social Service Administration
  • Subject
    • Social work education -- Illinois
    • Women in social work education -- Illinois