Born this day in 1857: Kate Waller Barrett (1857–1925), physician, social reformer, and suffragist
Barrett was born Kate Harwood Waller in Falmouth, Virginia. In 1876 she married Robert South Barrett, an Episcopal minister. Barrett’s interest in the plight of so-called “fallen women” was aroused when an unmarried woman and her baby came to the rectory for help, and Barrett was surprised to discover that this supposedly disgraced woman was little different from herself. Barrett and her husband soon began ministering to local prostitutes. To aid their efforts, Barrett earned an M.D. from Women’s Medical College of Georgia (1892).
Barrett devoted herself to championing the cause of poor unwed mothers, who often lacked access to medical care and were considered social outcasts. She eventually became president of the Florence Crittenton Mission. The mission provided health care, education, and job training to unwed mothers, needy immigrant women, prostitutes, and women who had contracted venereal diseases. In time, more than 50 local missions were established across the nation. Because of her efforts, the plight of unwed mothers became an acceptable subject of philanthropy. In 1898 the National Florence Crittenton Mission became the first philanthropic institution chartered by Congress. It operates today as the Florence Crittenton National Foundation.
Barrett was also vice-president of Virginia’s Equal Suffrage League from 1909 to 1920, a delegate to the National Democratic Convention of 1924, and sat on the Board of Visitors at William and Mary College.
I welcome your feedback! React, comment, subscribe below.