NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Frances Kellor (1873-1952)
Frances Kellor was a social investigator and reformer who was especially active during the first two weeks of the twentieth century in the efforts to improve the conditions under which black migrants (particularly women) moved from the South to northern cities.
Ms. Kellor was born in Columbus, Ohio. Young Frances grew up in a middle class family. Her parents recognized the value of a good education for women, and implanted a sense of service in their daughter not unlike that transmitted to children from similar circumstances, who became active in the social settlement and other social reform movements of the early twentieth century.
Due to financial difficulties arising from the death or desertion of her father, Ms. Kellor was able to secure only two years of a high school education before taking a full-time job on a local newspaper. After passing a special examination, she was admitted to Cornell University Law School, from which she graduated in 1897 with an LLB. In 1898, she continued her education in sociology and social work, at the University of Chicago. In the summer of 1902, she moved to New York City to enroll in the New York Summer School of Philanthropy. Her outstanding work in that program brought her fellowships from the College Settlement Association between 1902 and 1904 for continued study.
Ms. Kellors publications and activities reflected her recognition of the significant role environment played in the successful adjustment of migrants to their new homes. She wrote continually of the dilemma of both black migrants from the South and European immigrants.
Ms. Kellor organized with other social workers in New York City the Inter-Municipal League for Household Research. Sensing the need for a more extensive national network that the two associations in New York and Philadelphia to protect northward-bound black women from exploitation, she and the Inter-Municipal League associates organized in 1906 the National League for the Protection of Colored Women. In 1911, the League became
One of three agencies committed to assisting black adjustment to the urban environment to unite in the formation of the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes, better known as the National Urban League.
Frances Kellor died in New York City on January 4, 1952.