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Florence Kelley

AKA Florence Molthrop Kelley

Born: 12-Sep-1859
Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA
Died: 17-Feb-1932
Location of death: Germantown, PA
Cause of death: Natural Causes
Remains: Buried, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Gender: Female
Religion: Quaker
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Activist, Author

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Founder of National Consumers League

Florence Kelley was the daughter of US Congressman William D. Kelley, and became a leading voice in the labor, suffragette, and children's, and civil rights movements. She was co-founder and first Executive Secretary of the National Consumers League, where she introduced and championed the "White Label" project, where an NCL seal of approval was displayed at stores that maintained fair labor practices, and shoppers were encouraged to boycott shops that did not display the "White Label." Under her leadership, the NCL fought for the eight-hour work day and laws against child labor, and her work led to establishment of the U.S. Children's Bureau in 1912. She also advocated for the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Protection Act, which provided federally-funded health care for needy mothers and children and led to a major reduction in US infant mortality.

After being educated at Cornell and the University of Zurich, she worked with the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics investigating worker abuses, and provided the numerical evidence that led to state legislation mandating an eight-hour work day for women and children. The law, enacted in 1894, was repealed the following year under pressure from the Illinois Association of Manufacturers. After this disappointment, she decided she was at a distinct disadvantage in her legal battles, and enrolled in law school at Northwestern University. She was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and the National Child Labor Committee.

She was married for seven years to an abusive husband, and took refuge from him at Jane Addams' famed Hull House. After divorcing him she resumed using her maiden name and legally changed her children's names to Kelley. After establishing the NCL in New York City, she lived at Lillian Wald's Henry Street Settlement. Her great aunt was abolitionist and suffragette Sarah Pugh, and her maternal ancestors include botanist John Bartram. In addition to her own books, she provided translation for the first English-language edition of Friedrich Engels's The Conditions of the Working Class in England.


[1] Kelley was a member of the Republican Party as a young woman, joined the Socialist Labor Party in the 1880s, the Democratic Party in the early 1900s, and the Woman's Peace Party during World War I.

Father: William D. Kelley (jeweler/US Congressman, b. 12-Apr-1814, d. 9-Jan-1890)
Mother: Caroline Bartram Bonsall Kelley (b. 1829, m. 4-Oct-1854, d. 1903)
Sister: Elizabeth Kelley (b. 1857, d. infancy)
Sister: Marian Kelley (b. 1863, d. infancy)
Sister: Josephine Kelley (twin b. 1864, d. infancy)
Sister: Anna Kelley (twin b. 1864, d. 1870)
Brother: William Darrah Kelley, Jr. (twin b. 1865, d. 1888)
Brother: Albert Bartram Kelley (insurance salesman, twin b. 1865, d. 1931)
Sister: Caroline Kelley (b. 1869, d. infancy)
Husband: Lazare Wischnewetzky (physician, m. 17-Oct-1884, div. 1891, two sons, one daughter)
Son: Nicholas Kelley (Treasury Dept official, b. 1885, d. 1965)
Daughter: Margaret Dana Kelley (b. 1886, d. 1905)
Son: John Bartram Kelley (author, b. 1888, d. 1968)

    High School: Miss Longreth's School, Philadelphia, PA (1876)
    University: BS, Cornell University (1882)
    Law School: University of Zurich (attended)
    Law School: Northwestern University (1897)

    American Civil Liberties Union Co-Founder (1920)
    NAACP Co-Founder (1909)
    National American Woman Suffrage Association Vice President
    National Consumers League Co-Founder and Exeutive Secretary (1899-1932)
    Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
    Illinois State Official Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics (1892-97)
    Irish Ancestry Paternal

Author of books:
Our Toiling Children (1889)
Some Ethical Gains through Legislation (1905)
Modern Industry in Relation to the Family, Health, Education, Morality (1914)
Why Women Demand A Federal Suffrage Amendment (1916, with Mary Ritter Beard)
The Supreme Court and Minimum Wage Legislation (1925)
Notes of Sixty Years (1927)


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