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social sciences

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Kellor, Frances Alice (1873-1952)  
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In one photo, in which Kellor and Dreier greet Eleanor Roosevelt, Kellor has her arm around Dreier's shoulder in a masculine gesture of protection. Kellor often called Mary, "my dear little girl."

Indeed, a paternalistic attitude is apparent in many of the letters Kellor wrote Dreier. In one, she reassures Mary, "I don't expect love to make a sociologist or any other ologist out of you."

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But Mary and her sister Margaret were important activists in their own right. For example, both served as presidents of the Women's Trade Union League. Margaret and her husband, Raymond Robins (1873-1954), were powerful members of the Progressive Party. Collectively, they constituted a veritable first-family of progressivism.

Mary was often described as reserved. Yet people also commented on how much she had "come out" under Kellor's tutelage. Mary even once was arrested for trying to stop a scab from crossing picket lines. A newspaper expressed shock that authorities would "lock up a woman like Miss Dreier . . . LIKE A COMMON CRIMINAL!"

It was after moving to New York, writing Out of Work, and establishing a household with Mary, that Kellor began her long affiliation with Americanization.

Kellor led every phase of the Americanization movement. This movement attempted to acculturate the Ellis Island generation of immigrants. Although some historians deride the movement as coercive, xenophobic, and culturally conformist, such generalizations overlook the fact that in leading the movement Kellor developed an accepting social justice-based, multicultural version of American citizenship.

Indeed, many of the movement's activities, such as English classes for adults and lecture series on American history, were initiated by immigrants who desperately wanted to become "real Americans." Moreover, as someone who had herself escaped poverty, Kellor intimately understood the aspirations of the newcomers.

Kellor's early Americanization work aped that of existing immigrant groups. For example, she went to the docks to welcome immigrants and steer them clear of predators and con men.

As Kellor took on immigration activism full-time, however, her work shifted into the traditionally male domains of labor camps and politics. As such, her previous exclusive attention to women ended.

In 1909 Kellor co-authored Athletic Games in the Education of Women with the long-time head of the University of Chicago women's sports program, Gertrude Dudley. Kellor's vision for women's sports had widened during the ten years of basketball coaching she undertook after her early rowing team advocacy at Cornell. In the book the authors contended that women were too domestic and concerned with gossip. They argued that playing basketball could make women public activists and concerned with important issues outside the confines of their homes.

In 1910 the National League for the Protection of Colored Women, which she had founded while studying domestic workers, merged with two other groups to form the National Urban League, one of the oldest and most successful community-based civil rights organizations in the country. But in making her organization larger, it lost its sole focus on women in a way similar to her shift in focus from women immigrants to immigrants in general.

Still Kellor's very success helped women lift the glass ceiling. In 1910 Kellor became the first female head of a New York state agency, the Bureau of Industries and Immigrants. Working with private immigrant advocacy organizations, Kellor turned this bureau into a powerful protector of immigrant labor rights.

Eventually, Kellor led military and federal Americanization departments during World War I and afterwards.

Americanization Day was the Americanization movement's most public event. Held on the Fourth of July, Kellor's celebrations featured long-term Americans welcoming newly arrived Americans. In the first year, 1915, celebrations took place in over 150 cities and hundreds of thousands participated. In each of these events, immigrants marched in their traditional costumes. The festivities peaked with the end of the War in 1918. Americanization Day created a proto-multicultural definition of American citizenship.

In 1916, the Committee for Immigrants in America (CIA), which Kellor led, wrote the New York State Americanization curriculum. Following the lead of John Dewey, the curriculum urged activist community service learning rather than memorizing historical facts or imparting Protestant culture. The curriculum asked teachers to identify problems facing the particular immigrant community they taught and to help the immigrants organize to solve these problems.

During the years Kellor led the Americanization movement she also undertook other endeavors. She held the highest position of any woman in the 1912 Progressive Party presidential campaign of Theodore Roosevelt. This was the first campaign in which a major political party included women's suffrage in its national platform.

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