Edith Abbott was born in Grand Island Nebraska in 1876 (“Edith”, n.d.). Her parents were both active in civil rights and the government. Her father, Othman Ali Abbott, served in the Civil War and her mother, Elizabeth Abbott, was a respected high school principle prior to marrying Othman (Coston, 1986). Her father was also the first Lieutenant Governor of Nebraska, and her mother was an abolitionist and a women’s suffrage leader (“Edith”, n.d.). Edith’s younger sister, Grace, was also involved in public welfare and current social problems of the time (“Edith”, n.d.). Both Abbott sisters gained their pacifist beliefs, interest in progressive reform, and dedication to equal rights from their mother Elizabeth Abbott (Coston, 1986). Edith studied at the University of Nebraska and went to graduate school at the University of Chicago, where she earned her doctorate in political economy in 1905 (Costin, 1983). She was very involved in both her education and the education of others. Edith spent a year in Boston with the Women’s Trade Union League and the Carnegie Institution, along with a year in England studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science (Costin, 1983). The year she spent in England pushed Edith and shaped her beliefs into the person she became (Coston, 1986). She then taught a year of Economics at Wellesley College followed by becoming the dean of School of Social Service Administration in 1924 (Costin, 1983). Edith returned to Chicago to develop a new method of social research, where she spent the remainder of her career (Costin, 1983). She retired in Nebraska in 1953 and died there at the age of 80 (“National”, n.d.).
Edith spent the majority of her career trying to change the way social work was taught in Universities around the nation. She also spoke out on controversial issues, for example, her opposition to World War I and the immigration laws that followed; she battled for labor laws to be created to protect workingwomen from exploitation (“National”, n.d.). Edith believed that social work was both a cultural and disciplinary subject, and that preparation for the field could not be delegated to other places within a University (Wisner, 1958). She was concerned that social work students were being placed in the field without proper supervision and that those agencies weren’t teaching students as well a professor could (Wisner, 1958). She also wanted social work students to have access to other subjects and be able to incorporate research into their studies with the proper facility and training (Coston, 1986). Edith was strongly influenced by Charles Booth, Sidney Webb, and Beatrice Webb (Wisner, 1958). The American Economic Associate and the American Statistical Association also influenced Edith Abbott tremendously (Wisner, 1958). According to Elizabeth Wisner, Abbott was in many ways the architect of our present graduate curriculum. After Edith passed away, many people...