Florence Crittenton homes are residential care facilities for teenage girls who are pregnant, parenting or at-risk. Originally opened as refuges for young prostitutes, the homes soon became maternity centers for young, often poor, unmarried pregnant women, providing medical care, therapy, support services and educational opportunities. After 1960, many homes discontinued in-house medical services and focused on counseling, education and support for young women and families, and public advocacy on behalf of at-risk teenagers, particularly unmarried, pregnant girls.
The first Florence Crittenton home was opened on Bleecker Street in New York on April 19, 1883. Charles Crittenton, a wealthy New York businessman, had become despondent after the death of his four-year-old daughter Florence from scarlet fever. Finding comfort in religion, he began evangelizing to young prostitutes. Realizing that they would need lodging and support in order to have hope of leaving such circumstances, Crittenton devoted the rest of his life to providing a safe haven and rehabilitation for these women. In 1890, Crittenton decided that such homes should be established nationwide; thirteen homes were opened by 1893.
In 1893, Crittenton met Kate Waller Barrett, a woman who was to become a major force in the Crittenton program. The wife of Reverend Robert Barrett, she became, through his work, exposed to the hardships of unwed mothers and their babies. In affiliation with Crittenton, Barrett opened a rescue home for young women in Atlanta. Together, Barrett and Crittenton opened a home in Washington, D.C., which became the national headquarters of the Florence Crittenton Mission. After Crittenton's death in 1909, Barrett became the organization's president, until her death in 1925. Barrett was instrumental in helping to shift the focus of the rescue-home movement away from the reformation of prostitutes and toward the social welfare of the unwed mother.
In 1950, the Florence Crittenton Association of America, an autonomous federation of Crittenton Homes, was established. Among the Association's stated purposes was to promote a better understanding of the problems of unmarried mothers and their babies and to work with other organizations in related fields. In 1976, the Association became a division of the Child Welfare League of America. Today, there are a number of Florence Crittenton agencies across the country.
The Florence Crittenton Home of Seattle
Crittenton arrived in Seattle in March 1899 to evangelize, and with hopes of opening a new home. Soon, a newly organized Seattle group purchased a 27-room house overlooking Lake Washington in Dunlap, the location from which the home would operate until it closed in 1973.
The Florence Crittenton Home of Seattle was opened on November 21, 1899, with two maternity wards and space for 50 women. A larger home, built on the same property, was opened in 1926. The home closed temporarily during World War II, when the city of Seattle leased the Florence Crittenton building and property for use as a venereal disease quick treatment center. In the late 1940s, the delivery of babies was moved out of the Home itself and into a local hospital; by 1951, all medical care was handled by staff doctors at Swedish hospital.
A 1953 wing added residential and administrative space; in 1965, four cottages increased capacity from 40 to 90 residents. Though there was a waiting list for beds in the 1960s, by the 1970s the climate had begun to change. Society became more accepting of unwed mothers, for whom more resources were available; the number of residents at the Seattle home dropped dramatically. In 1973, the Seattle Home, already in debt, lost crucial funding from the United Way because of a lack of need for its services. On March 15, 1973, the facility was closed.
The building currently houses the Thunderbird Treatment Center, operated by the Seattle Indian Health Board, and providing treatment for Native Americans with chemical substance dependency.
The collection contains various publications of Florence Crittenton associations, including annual reports, a 1917 national magazine and 1968 newsletter. The collection contains a large amount of ephemera related to the Seattle home, collected by Ms. Miller during the years of her employment. The collection also includes a number of photographs from the Seattle home, including photographs of the interior and exterior of the Home as well as snapshots of staff and others at Home related events.
Restrictions on Access :
The collection is open to the public by appointment.Restrictions on Use :
The Museum of History & Industry is the owner of the materials in the Sophie Frye Bass Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from MOHAI before any reproduction use. The museum does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.Preferred Citation :
Maida Miller Collection on the Florence Crittenton Home, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle
Folders within series are arranged roughly chronologically.
Acquisition Information :
Donated by Maida Miller in 2000. Ms. Miller worked at the Florence Crittenton Home in Seattle from 1959 until shortly before its closing in 1973. Ms. Miller started at the Seattle home as a Housemother, later becoming the bookkeeper, and then Institutional Manager.Processing Note :
Processed by Jody Hendrickson, 2006.Related Materials :
The June Robinson Collection of the Florence Crittenton Home (1999.68)
Florence Crittenton Home Scrapbook, 1930s-1960s, University of Washington Special Collections, Pacific Northwest Scrapbook Collection
Detailed Description of the Collection