#WomenHistoryWednesday: Cornelia Foster Bradford

Cornelia Foster Bradford was a committed public servant, teacher, social worker, and advocate for children and human's rights. In 1894, Bradford started the Whittier House a social settlement once located in Jersey City’s First Ward where immigrant groups settled after their entry into America through Ellis Island.  Her initial goal for creating the settlement was to perform social work in the neighborhood and improve the living conditions for the mostly immigrant residents.

Going above and beyond its original expectations, Whittier House became an incubator for various social reform initiatives including free kindergarten for local residents, a women's club, a fresh-air program for children with a summer camp at Pomona, NY, dental clinic, visiting nurse service, diet kitchen, playgrounds, and much more. Many of these programs were so popular that the city and state eventually took over many of their ideas.

Mary Philbrook from the first week of #WomenHistoryWednesday was the Whittier House’s legal aid advisor.

Bradford along with other social reformers in the area continued their public service efforts and founded several state and county associations including the Child Protective League, the New Jersey Association of Neighborhood Workers, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the New Jersey State Bureau of Immigration, Legal Aid Society, New Jersey Consumers League, Jersey City Negro Welfare Association (1917), and the Hudson County Tuberculosis Association. She also founded and was president of a lobby organization for social legislation, the New Jersey Association of Neighborhood Workers to unite New Jersey's settlement houses.

Other achievements of Cornelia Bradford include her investigation into the working conditions of children which led to the formation of the Child Protective League and a comprehensive child labor bill, her lobbying in the legislature at Trenton for reforms like a ten-hour work day and a five-day work week and the establishment of juvenile courts, parental homes, and county penitentiary. Bradford was also appointed her to the New Jersey State Board of Children's' Guardians and she was the first woman member appointed to the Jersey City Board of Education. Among her interests while on the board, was the construction of an elementary school in the First Ward which was completed in 1916 and is now P.S. 16.  

Cornelia Foster Bradford may not have been born in our great city, but she left behind a long list of legendary public service efforts here! She was committed to Jersey City and the rights of its residents. Hats off to this public servant for #WomenHistoryWednesday!

Continue to celebrate Women’s History Month with WomenRising and purchase your ticket to our event happening next Thursday from 6:00-8:00 pm at Modera Lofts: www.womenrising.org/whm