Who's Saving Whom from What and Why?" -- Placing the National Florence Crittenton Mission in Its Social and Legal Context, Illinois 1883 - 1933
The paper examines the reform efforts of the National Florence Crittenton Mission (NFCM) in the context of legal and social changes in Illinois from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. The NFCM is now best known for its efforts in offering anonymous maternity and adoptive services to pregnant teens during the mid-twentieth century. A look at its origins and the motivations behind its founding, however, reveal that it came to occupy this space after a great deal of political and social change. Specifically, the NFCM shifted its efforts in three distinct ways. First, the original rescue missions offered homes for prostitutes who were seeking to change their lives through religious conversion. This proved to be a difficult market, so the homes began to provide services to unwed mothers. Second, the mission changed from a very strong belief that an unwed mother should maintain custody of her baby in almost every circumstance to the belief that babies should be placed in adoptive homes so that both mother and child could have a better life. Finally, the early religious and evangelical motivations that permeated the rescue efforts faded and were replaced by scientific, social work models based on more modern beliefs about efficiency and problem solving.
This Mission's development took place during a time of real change and revolution in America--the Progressive Era. The NFCM was affected by these changes and worked together with other social reformers such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the United States Children's Bureau. The NFCM was also affected by changes in Illinois law, including the establishment of juvenile courts, changes and amendments to adoption laws, protective legislation regarding child welfare, and a host of legislation related to morality. In sum, this paper explores a changing mission in changing times.
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