Born this day in 1862: Martha Platt Falconer (1862–1941), social worker and reformer noted for revolutionizing correctional programs for delinquent girls.
Falconer was born Martha Platt in Delaware, Ohio. After the death of her mother in 1877 she lived for a time in Philadelphia with one sister and then in Kansas with another. The independence of frontier women made a lasting imprssion on Falconer, who then took up the cause of suffrage and devoted her career to women’s needs.
In 1885 she married Cyrus Falconer, a Santa Fe Railroad employee. The couple had three children. In 1888 they moved to Chicago, where Falconer became active in civic work and social reform.
Falconer served as one of Cook County’s first juvenile probation officers. She later worked for the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society, both in the field and as assistant superintendant. In 1906 parlayed this combination of direct care and executive experience to serve as superintendent of the girls division of Philadelphia’s House of Refuge.
In this position she created a model for transforming institutions for delinquent, displaced, and homeless young women, which were virtual prisons, to institutions base on rehabilitation and that focused on teaching responsibility and self-reliance.
During World War I she took a leave of absence from the House of Refuge to work with delinquent girls who prostituted themselves to military training camps, establishing programs that served as models for similar ones established during World War II.
After resigning from the House of Refuge in 1919 Falconer held several positions at reform institutions in New York, and after she retired she was appointed as a delegate to the International Conference of Social Work in Paris. She traveled often, both at home and abroad, to serve as a consultant to various institutions for delinquent girls and women.
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