Joseph Lee (recreation advocate)

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Joseph Lee
Born March 8, 1849
Boston, Massachusetts
Died 1937
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard and Harvard Law School
Occupation Social Activist, Philanthropist
Children Joseph Lee Jr.

Joseph Lee (1862 – 1937) was a wealthy Bostonian, who trained as a lawyer but never practiced law, and is considered the "founder of the playground movement." He was the son of Henry Lee, a Boston banker, and Elizabeth Perkins Cabot Lee of Brookline, Massachusetts.

He was a social worker, author, and philanthropist. Lee believed that community life could be strengthened by playgrounds and play.

In 1897, Lee married Margaret Cabot. They had four children. Margaret Cabot Lee died in 1920 and Lee remarried his secretary, Marion Snow, in 1930. Lee's daughter, Susan Lee, was active in her father's work and later served as vice-president of the National Recreation and Park Association. His son, Joseph Lee Jr. helped establish the Massachusetts Committee to Further Outdoor Recreation and the Boston Board of Recreation and served as chairman of the Boston Park Commission and Boston School Committee.

Lee founded the Massachusetts Civic League and served as its President from 1897-1937. He was an active officer in the Immigration Restriction League from 1905 until his death in 1937. He served as president of the National Recreation Association from 1910 until the time of his death.

During the first World War he served as president of the War Camp Community Service for the U.S. Army. For this service he was decorated with the Distinguished Service Medal (U.S. Army) in 1919.[1]

Lee was among the first recipients of the Boy Scouts of America Silver Buffalo Award in 1926.[2]


  1. ^ War Department General Order No. 73, 1919.
  2. ^ The Massachusetts Historical Society. Library: Collection Guides: Joseph Lee [1]

Further reading[edit]

  • Butler, George Daniel (1965). Pioneers in Public Recreation. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Burgess Publishing. OCLC 420183. 
  • Glassberg, David (1980). "Restoring a "Forgotten Childhood": American Play and the Progressive Era's Elizabethan Past". American Quarterly. 32 (4): 351–368. JSTOR 2712457. 
  • Hardy, Stephen; Ingham, Alan G. (1983). "Games, Structures, and Agency: Historians on the American Play Movement". Journal of Social History. 17 (2): 285–301. JSTOR 3786903. 
  • Hartsoe, Charles; Sanders, M. Douglas; Bridgers, Meredith, eds. (2009). Profiles in leadership: Robert W. Crawford Recreation and Park Hall of Fame. Champaign, Illinois: Sagamore Publishing. ISBN 978-1-57167-539-2. 
  • Marsden, K. Gerald (March 1961). "Philanthropy and the Boston Playground Movement, 1885-1907". Social Service Review. 35 (1): 48–58. JSTOR 30016817. 

External links[edit]