A Sister's Memories: The Life And Work Of Grace Abbott From The Writings Of Her Sister, Edith Abbott

Paperback | September 14, 2015

EditorJohn Sorensen

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Among the great figures of Progressive Era reform, Edith and Grace Abbott are perhaps the least sung. Peers, companions, and coworkers of legendary figures such as Jane Addams and Sophonisba Breckinridge, the Abbott sisters were nearly omnipresent in turn-of-the-century struggles to improve the lives of the poor and the working-class people who fed the industrial engines and crowded into diverse city neighborhoods. Grace’s innovative role as a leading champion for the rights of children, immigrants, and women earned her a key place in the history of the social justice movement. As her friend and colleague Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, Grace was “one of the great women of our day . . . a definite strength which we could count on for use in battle.”

A Sister’s Memories is the inspiring story of Grace Abbott (1878–1939), as told by her sister and social justice comrade, Edith Abbott (1876–1957). Edith recalls in vivid detail the Nebraska childhood, impressive achievements, and struggles of her sister who, as head of the Immigrants’ Protective League and the U.S. Children’s Bureau, championed children’s rights from the slums of Chicago to the villages of Appalachia. Grace’s crusade can perhaps be best summed up in her well-known credo: “Justice for all children is the high ideal in a democracy.” Her efforts saved the lives of thousands of children and immigrants and improved those of millions more. These trailblazing social service works led the way to the creation of the Social Security Act and UNICEF and caused the press to nickname her “The Mother of America’s 43 Million Children.” She was the first woman in American history to be nominated to the presidential cabinet and the first person to represent the United States at a committee of the League of Nations.

Edited by Abbott scholar John Sorensen, A Sister’s Memories is destined to become a classic. It shapes the diverse writings of Edith Abbott into a cohesive narrative for the first time and fills in the gaps of our understanding of Progressive Era reforms. Readers of all backgrounds will find themselves engrossed by this history of the unstoppable, pioneer feminist Abbott sisters.

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Among the great figures of Progressive Era reform, Edith and Grace Abbott are perhaps the least sung. Peers, companions, and coworkers of legendary figures such as Jane Addams and Sophonisba Breckinridge, the Abbott sisters were nearly omnipresent in turn-of-the-century struggles to improve the lives of the poor and the working-class p...

John Sorensen is the founder of the Abbott Sisters Project. He is the editor of The Grace Abbott Reader and has directed numerous film and radio programs, including The Quilted Conscience. He resides in New York.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:376 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:September 14, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022620961X

ISBN - 13:9780226209616

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Introduction   1

Part 1. A Prairie Childhood

1. Children of the Western Plains
2. Some Family Traditions: Abolition and the Civil War
3. Democracy on the High Plains
4. Our Prairie Home
5. The Rights of the Indian
6. The Rights of Women
7. Father’s Law Office
8. A Home of Law and Politics
9. The Children’s Day
10. Books in the Prairie Days
11. Grace and the Rights of Children
12. The Treeless Plains
13. The End of the Beginning

Part 2. The Hull House Years

Preface
14. Life at Hull House
15. Protecting Immigrant Arrivals
16. The Lost Immigrant Girls
17. The Children of Immigrants
18. Protecting Workers: Immigrants and Women
19. A Fair Deal: Banks and Courts
20. The “New Immigration”
21. Immigration at the Source
22. The Massachusetts Commission on Immigration
23. A Pacifist in the First World War
24. Julius Rosenwald
25. Votes for Women
26. The Children’s Bureau
27. The First Child Labor Law
28. The Tragedy of “Hammer v. Dagenhart”
29. Children and the War
30. Back to Chicago

Part 3. The Crusade for Children

31. The New Chief
32. The First Year
33. The Maternity Bill: A Matter of Life and Death
34. The Supreme Court and the Radio
35. The Children’s Amendment
36. Madame President
37. The Battle Continues
38. Publications and Politics
39. Geneva
40. Extending the Act
41. 1929
42. Grace Abbott for the Cabinet
43. The White House Conference
44. Conversion by Exigency
45. First Essentials
46. The Undying Fire

Acknowledgments
Appendix. The Undying Fire
Illustrations
Edith Abbott (1919)
Grace Abbott (1881)
Grace Abbott (1889/1900)
Grace Abbott with her niece Charlotte Abbott (1917/1918)
Edith Abbott and Grace Abbott (1930s)

Editorial Reviews

“The work of many women activists of the early twentieth century went undocumented and unheralded for decades, often until it was recovered by historians in the 1980s. Grace Abbott’s work, in particular, may have been dropped from the record because she did not position herself as a maternal guardian of children, but as an informed expert. Assertive rather than emotional, she spoke in languages—statistics, the law—that many men considered their exclusive domain. Women activists of this generation sometimes wrote their own and each other’s histories, perhaps because they knew no one else was going to. A Sister’s Memories reminds us that Progressive women reformers made themselves heard first by advocating for what they felt was right, and then by documenting what they had done.”