• IdentificationICU.SPCL.EGABBOTT
  • TitleGuide to the Edith and Grace Abbott Papers1870-1967
  • PublisherUniversity of Chicago Library
  • LanguageEnglish
  • Date1870-1967
  • Physical Description50 linear feet (100 boxes)
  • RepositorySpecial Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.
  • AbstractEdith Abbott received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1905 and was a resident of Hull House until 1920. She served as Associate Director of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy at the University of Chicago and also served as dean. She died in 1957. Grace Abbott received her Ph.M. from the University of Chicago in 1909 and studied law at the University of Chicago Law School. In 1915 she became the first director of the newly organized Immigrant's Protective League, and in 1917 was appointed to the Child Labor Division of the United States Children's Bureau. She as Edith both served as professors of Public Welfare at the University of Chicago. Grace died in 1939. Papers of Edith Abbott contain professional and personal correspondence, lecture notes for courses taught at the University of Chicago School of Social Administration (SSA), speeches and articles, the draft of the unfinished biography of Grace Abbott, some administrative files and reports of SSA, biographical material, and photographs. Papers of Grace Abbott contain personal and professional correspondence; manuscripts of articles, speeches, and radio broadcasts; biographical material; invitations; scrapbooks relating to the United States Children's Bureau; and pamphlets and memoranda on the Child Labor Amendment of 1924-25. Correspondents include Jane Addams, Sophonisba Breckinridge, Julia Lathrop, Frances Perkins, S.K. Ratcliffe, and Gifford Pinchot. Subjects include Hull House, child labor laws, child welfare, immigration, philanthropy, and public welfare administration. Also contains Abbott family papers, including correspondence, memorabilia, and photographs.

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

Sociology and Social Welfare

Chicago and Illinois

Labor and Socialism

Gender Studies and Sexuality

The collection is open for research.

When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Abbott, Edith and Grace. Papers, [Box #, Folder #], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

Edith Abbott was born in Grand Island, Nebraska in 1876, daughter of the state's first Lieutenant Governor, Othman A. Abbott. She received her A.B. from the University of Nebraska in 1901, her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1905, and spent the year 1906-1907 in post-graduate study at the University of London. Upon her return to Chicago in 1908, she became a resident of Hull House, where she remained until 1920. During this same period, 1908-1920, she served as Associate Director of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy at the University of Chicago. In 1913, Edith Abbott formally joined the University of Chicago faculty on which she remained until 1953. From 1924 until 1942 she was Dean of the School of Social Service Administration, and from 1942 until 1953, Dean Emeritus. She died in 1957.

Grace Abbott was born two years after her sister Edith, in 1878. She received her Ph.B. from Grand Island College in 1898, her Ph.M. from the University of Chicago in 1909, and studied law at the University of Chicago Law School. She taught intermittently during this period, at the secondary-school level. In 1908 she also moved into Hull House, and there her interests were turned increasingly toward social problems. In 1915 she became the first Director of the newly organized Immigrant's Protective League, and in 1917 she was appointed to a position in the Child Labor Division of the United States Children's Bureau. Upon the resignation of Julia Lathrop, first Chief of the Bureau in 1921, Grace Abbott was appointed to that position. She held it until 1934. From 1934 until her death in 1939 she joined her sister in Chicago as Professor of Public Welfare at the University of Chicago and Editor of Social Service Review.

This collection reflects the close association of the Abbott sisters throughout their careers, as well as the central position which they held in the formative period of social service in the United States. Their correspondence and interests encompassed local, state, national, and international aspects of social welfare. Among their regular correspondents were Julia Lathrop, Jane Addams, Florence Kelly, Julius Rosenwald, Julius Mack, Frances Perkins, Lillian Wald, and Felix Frankfurter. A few of the many organizations in which one or the other took an active interest were the American Association of Social Workers, American Child Health Association, Better Homes in America, Chicago Recreation Committee, Child Labor Committee of Illinois, National Civil Service Reform League, Hull House, Immigrant's Protective League, International Penal and Penitentiary Commission, National Conference on Social Work, Social Science Research Committee, Twentieth Century Fund, United States Children's Bureau, and others. Edith's interests were centered on the status of women in industry and the establishment of high professional standards in social work education. Grace Abbott's career was largely devoted to the conditions of child labor and to maternal and child health matters. The sisters shared an early interest in the problems of the immigrant, and later on in the relief and public assistance programs of the New Deal.

The collection has been divided into four series: the professional papers of Edith Abbott, the professional papers of Grace Abbott, the personal papers of both, which consists to a great extent of Abbott family correspondence, and Addenda.

Within these large categories, a more detailed arrangement has been made. Edith Abbott's professional papers consist of financial and legal documents, correspondence, press notices, speeches and articles, and lecture notes for social service courses at the University of Chicago, material on the American Association of Schools of Social Work, and reports and records relating to the School of Social Service Administration.

Grace Abbott's professional papers consist of biographical material and memorials, speaking invitations, social invitations and requests for articles, manuscripts of articles and speeches, correspondence and press response to the proposal of Grace Abbott for Secretary of Labor in 1930, lecture notes, correspondence with students and reports concerning social service administration. It also contains correspondence arranged alphabetically by individual or organization name, general correspondence arranged chronologically, and scrapbooks on the history of the Children's Bureau, Children's Bureau publicity, pamphlets and memoranda on the Child Labor Amendment of 1924-25, and a collection of radio talks on the Children's Bureau.

The personal papers of Grace and Edith Abbott contain correspondence between the sisters and with other members of their family, personal memorabilia, and general personal correspondence with a number of people.

Series IV consists of an addenda to the Papers. Subseries I contains papers relating to Edith Abbott. The general correspondence is largely of a social nature -- including condolences on the death of Grace -- with scattered letters concerning professional matters and the School of Social Service Administration. Prominent among her correspondents are Jane Addams, Sophonisba Breckinridge, and S. K. Ratcliffe. Also present is family correspondence, dated 1897-1950, replete with family news and local gossip for Grand Island, Nebraska, and a variety of biographical materials -- mostly clippings. The professional papers consist of Edith's lectures on philanthropy, a series of articles on social welfare subjects, and drafts of two unpublished monographs.

Grace Abbott's papers in Subseries II are arranged in a manner corresponding to those of Edith in the first series. Here among the general correspondence are filed Grace's extensive correspondence with Frances Perkins and Katharine Lenroot concerning the Federal Child Labor Law and the proposed reorganization and operation of the Children's Bureau. The family correspondence includes a body of letters addressed to both sisters as well as Grace and Edith's correspondence with each other. The biographical materials are dominated by the typed draft of Edith's unpublished biography of her sister, "Grace Abbott: Her Sister's Story of Her Life and Work." Closing the series is a small group of professional papers including articles and policy papers.

Subseries III consists of correspondence of Charlotte Abbott, the only niece of Grace and Edith, and daughter of O. A. Abbott, Jr. The letters are almost exclusively of a personal nature and include extensive correspondence with her father, two aunts, and family friend, Sophonisba Breckinridge.

The final subseries is composed of correspondence, memorabilia, and photographs relating to the remaining members of the Abbott family. Again the material is largely personal, although clippings and correspondence concerning the political careers of O. A. Abbott, Sr. and O.A. Abbott, Jr. -- respectively first lieutenant governor of Nebraska and mayor of Grand Island -- are present. Mrs. Abbott's (Elizabeth Griffin Abbott) correspondence includes several items concerning the suffrage movement, while that of younger brother, Arthur, contains numerous condolences upon the deaths of Grace and Edith. A large collection of family portraits and snapshots complete this family archive. It should be noted that all photographs of Grace and Edith Abbott were removed and are located in the Archival Photographic files.

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

  • Names
    • Abbott, Edith
    • Abbott, Grace
    • Addams, Jane
    • Breckinridge, Sophonisba Preston
    • Frankfurter, Felix
    • Kelly, Florence
    • Lathrop, Julia Clifford
    • Mack, Julian
    • Perkins, Frances
    • Pinchott, Gifford
    • Ratcliffe, Samuel Kerkham
    • Rosenwald, Julius
    • Wald, Lillian
    • Hull House (Chicago, IL)
    • Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy. Records
    • United States. Children's Bureau
    • University of Chicago. Graduate School of Social Service Administration
    • University of Chicago. School of Social Service Administration
  • Subject
    • Child labor -- Law and legislation
    • Social reformers -- United States
    • Social service -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History
    • Social work education
    • Women social reformers -- United States