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Mon, 09.12.1859

Florence Kelley fought for civil rights and reform for women and children

Florence Kelly

Florence Kelley was born on this date in 1859. She was a White American activist for civil rights and social reform.

The daughter of United States congressman, William D. Kelley, she studied at Cornell University and the University of Zurich. While in Europe, she became a follower of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Kelley moved to New York City and then to Chicago with her three children. Soon after arriving in the city, she joined the social reformers at Hull House. John Peter Altgeld was one of the many visitors to Hull House, and when he was elected governor of Illinois in 1892, he appointed Kelley as the state's first chief factory inspector.

Kelley recruited a staff of 12 and in 1894 they managed to persuade the state legislature to pass legislation controlling child labor. This included a law limiting women and children to a maximum eight-hour day. A strong supporter of women's suffrage and African American civil rights, Kelley helped to establish the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909. A committed pacifist, Kelley opposed USA involvement in the World War I and was a member of the Woman's Peace Party (WPP) and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

Kelley wrote several books including "Some Ethical Gains Through Legislation" (1905), "Modern Industry in Relation to the Family" (1914), "The Supreme Court and Minimum Wage Legislation" (1925) and "Autobiography" (1927). Florence Kelley died in Germantown on February 17, 1932.

The Encyclopedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition.
Copyright 1996 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.
ISBN 0-85229-633-0

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