Frances Kellor

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Frances Kellor ca. 1910

Frances Alice Kellor (October 20, 1873 – January 4, 1952) was an American social reformer and investigator, who specialized in the study of immigrants to the United States and women.

Early life and education[edit]

Frances Alice Kellor was born October 20, 1873 in Columbus, Ohio. She grew up in Ohio and then in Michigan. She received her law degree in 1897 from Cornell Law School, joining the small group of women professionals, and studied at the University of Chicago and at the New York Summer School of Philanthropy. She believed that if the people listened to the poor living in the most diminishing areas, there could be great change in society for the better. Kellor, a progressive, thought that environment was the principal cause of crime.


She was secretary and treasurer of the New York State Immigration Commission in 1909 and chief investigator for the Bureau of Industries and Immigration of New York State in 1910-13. She became managing director of the North American Civic League for Immigrants and a member of the Progressive National Committee. She also oversaw the American Association of Foreign Language Newspapers.[1]

She directed the National Americanization Committee (NAC), the most important private organization promoting Americanization during World War I. Speaking for the NAC in 1916, proposed to combine efficiency and patriotism in her Americanization programs. It would be more efficient, she argued, once the factory workers could all understand English and therefore better understand orders and avoid accidents. Once Americanized, they would grasp American industrial ideals and be open to American influences and not subject only to strike agitators or foreign propagandists. The result, she argued would transform indifferent and ignorant residents into understanding voters, to make their homes into American homes, and to establish American standards of living throughout the ethnic communities. Ultimately, she argued it would "unite foreign-born and native alike in enthusiastic loyalty to our national ideals of liberty and justice."[2] Unlike African American social reformers of the time, Kellor believed that enslavement made it impossible for African American women to lead moral, respectable lives. Kellor and her cohort of white reformers focused on improving recently emancipated African American women's efficiency, rather than attempt to challenge the racially restrictive segregationist practices of the Northern society.[3]

In 1916, she became the chairman of the Women's Committee for the National Hughes Alliance, headquartered in the Hotel Astor. The goal of the Hughes Alliance was to organize the women of the country to support Charles E. Hughes in his bid for President of the United States in 1916.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Kellor never married. She maintained a long-term relationship with another woman, Mary Dreier, one of two wealthy sisters who played leading roles in the progressive movement in New York. They shared a home from 1905 until Kellor's death.[5]


She died in New York City on January 4, 1952.

Selected Works[edit]


  • Experimental Sociology: Descriptive and Analytical (1901)[6]
  • Out of Work (1904) with Gertrude Dudley[7]
  • Athletic Games in the Education of Women (1909)[8]
  • Notaries Public and Immigrants (1909) [9]
  • Straight America: A Call to National Service (1916)[10]
  • Immigration and the Future (1920)[11]
  • The Federal Administration and the Alien (1921)[12]


  • "Arbitration and the Legal Profession" (undated)[13]
  • "Sex and Crime" in International Journal of Ethics (October 1898)[14]
  • "Immigration and Household Labor" in Charities (1904)
  • "Where Slave Girls are Sold" in The New York Herald (February 14, 1904)
  • "Emigration From the South – The Women" in Charities (October 1905)
  • "The Immigrant Woman" in The Atlantic Monthly (September 1907)
  • "What is Americanization?". Yale Review. January 1919. 


  1. ^ Marilyn Ogilvie and Joy Harvey, ed. (2000), Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, Routledge, ISBN 9780415920384 
  2. ^ John F. McClymer, War and Welfare: Social Engineering in America, 1890-1925 (1980), 110-13
  3. ^ Cheryl D. Hicks, Talk with You Like a Woman: African American Women, Justice, and Reform in New York, 1890-1935. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010).
  4. ^ "N. Y. Women New Factor in Campaign". New York Tribune. 21 July 1916. pp. 1, 9. 
  5. ^ Harvard University Library: "Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elizabeth), 1875-1963. Papers, 1797-1963," October 1980, accessed February 8, 2011; Lillian Faderman, To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done For America - A History (NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1999), 323
  6. ^ Experimental Sociology: Descriptive and Analytical, accessed February 8, 2011
  7. ^ [1] The following review appeared in The American Monthly Review of Reviews, Vol 30 (1904): "Out of Work is the title of an interesting study of employment agencies, by Miss Frances A. Kellor (Putnam's). In this volume, Miss Kellor describes the treatment to which the unemployed are subjected by employment agencies, and the influence of such institutions upon homes and business. The took is published for the Inter-Municipal Committee of Household Research. Miss Kellor began her researches for this work in the city of New York, two years ago, but extended them to the cities of Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, under a fellowship of the College Settlements Association. Miss Kellor's investigations in New York City, which were supported by members of the Woman's Municipal League, resulted in the enactment of a new State law regulating employment agencies. The value of Miss Kellor's book lies largely in the undoubted authenticity of the information on which it is based. For each one of the seven hundred and thirty-two agencies visited by her, there is a record, affidavit, or other documentary evidence. The book should be read by all who are interested in reforming the abuses of employment agencies in American cities."
  8. ^ Athletic Games in the Education of Women, accessed February 8, 2011
  9. ^ Notaries Public and Immigrants, accessed February 8, 2011
  10. ^ Straight America: A Call to National Service. 1931-03-04. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  11. ^ Immigration and the Future, accessed February 8, 2011
  12. ^ The Federal Administration and the Alien: A Supplement to Immigration and the Future, accessed February 8, 2011
  13. ^ ABA Journal July 1953
  14. ^ New York Times: no title, October 22, 1898, accessed February 8, 2011


  • Barbara Sicherman and Carol Hurd Green, eds., Notable American Women: The Modern Period: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 4 (Radcliffe College, 1980), 393-5, available online

External links[edit]