Charles Crittenton was an activist Christian missionary during the late 19th century American social reform movement. Recognizing the lack of a safety net for women, he devoted himself to the reformation of "fallen women," principally women lacking any alternative to prostitution to sustain themselves and their children. In 1883, working as an urban missionary in New York, he opened a shelter, the Florence Night Mission, named in honor of his daughter Florence, who had passed away at the age of four.
The Wheeling Florence Crittenton Home was established in Wheeling in 1895, when a group of concerned citizens invited Charles Crittenton to visit the city to advise them on the organization of their "rescue" efforts. After touring the city, which suffered a well-established reputation of vice, Crittenton made a donation for the founding of the Florence Crittenton Rescue Home.
Crittenton worked for decades, mostly in concert with another famous reform movement of the era, The Womens' Christian Temperance Union, founding and supporting a network of more than forty missions-providing shelter and vocational training for women facing the shame and limited opportunity of "unwed" motherhood. Crittenton found a powerful partner in Dr. Kate Waller Barrett, an Atlanta obstetrician, who became the leader of the national Crittenton organization. Dr. Barrett refined its work, with a special emphasis on maternal and infant health.
Aside from the "reformation" and "regeneration" of girls and women who were victims "betrayed from the path of virtue," Crittenton and his partners understood the mission was not only to provide shelter, but to address the social justice issues and institutionalized bias that kept needy and victimized women at the margins of society. As the organization evolved through the 20th century, it responded to changing social mores, achieved a more professionalized approach by embracing evidence-based practices, and became inclusive.
Today, the National Crittenton Foundation and its family of agencies support girls, young women and their families. Still working in the social justice tradition, the organization focuses on the root causes and healing factors for girls and women who experience violence, substance abuse, acute/chronic trauma, poverty, racism, social isolation, mental illness and low educational achievement.
For more information on the National Florence Crittenton Foundation visit www.nationalcrittenton.org.
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