Florence Kelley Letters Project

       Kathryn Kish Sklar, co-director of the Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender, and Beverly Wilson Palmer, research associate at Pomona College, have completed The Selected Letters of Florence Kelley, 1869-1931, which appeared from the University of Illinois Press, spring 2009.  Their work on the one-volume collection of Florence Kelley’s letters was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2003-2004 and a grant from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission of the National Archives and Records Administration in 2004-2006.

Florence Kelley
Florence Kelley

       Florence Kelley (1859-1932) served as the executive director of the National Consumer's League from its founding in 1899 until her death in 1932. Kelley led campaigns that reshaped the conditions under which goods were produced in the United States. Among her accomplishments were the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and laws regulating hours and wages. She was a member of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, an activist for woman suffrage and African-American civil rights. In 1909 Kelley helped create the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and thereafter became a friend and ally of W.E.B. DuBois.

       Sklar, who is completing the second volume of a two-volume biography of Kelley, hopes that the publication of Kelley's letters will engage readers in Kelley's life and work with greater immediacy than biographical interpretations allow. Rather than viewing her struggles from afar, published letters will carry readers onto the battlegrounds of the struggles Kelley waged. By giving readers a first-hand understanding of the changes that she wrought in American life, Kelley's letters will help readers understand how much of what they take for granted in their own world was created by Kelley and her allies.

       Sklar and Palmer have transcribed and annotated approximately 300 letters from Florence Kelley, drawn from an extant pool of around 3,000 letters from Kelley. The co-editors have assembled a database of over 7,000 letters to and from Kelley. Their volume of letters focuses on Kelley's leadership in social legislation, but also highlights other important areas of her life, including her family's tradition of social reform leadership, her relationship with her three children, and her close friendships with other Progressive-era reformers.

Sklar and Palmer have created an index to Florence Kelley's correspondence.   To view that index, click here.