The Florence Crittenton Homes

Adoptions and adoptees pose special problems for genealogists.  And of course adoptees themselves have may have a difficult time tracing their genealogy.  Last Saturday was National Adoption Day in fact it was the 10th anniversary of national adoption day.  Coincidentally that day I was working on a blog entry called the “Black Catholics in My Family.” One of them was Amos R. Johnson Jr., of Kansas City, Missouri.  As I was researching Amos Johnson, I discovered that he had been a board member of something called the Florence Crittenton Home in Kansas City.  That led to several further discoveries.

First, I found out that that Kansas City once was the “baby hub” of the United States.  The Kansas City Public Library explains that:

Its central location in the United States with easy access by railroad contributed to Kansas City becoming “the baby hub of the United States.” The back page of a Willows pamphlet called Interesting Willows’ Statistics (1921) features a map of railroad lines across the United States all leading into Kansas City. The caption reads, “A glance at a railroad map of the United States will show the splendid position of Kansas City for the care of unfortunate young women. Its easy access from all directions, excellent train service and central location gives it the pre-eminent position in the country for its work.”

Kansas City Public Library, Special Collections, Local History

But more importantly I learned about the Frances Crittenton Homes.

Charles N. Crittenton was a wealthy pharmacist in New York City. In 1882, his five-year-old daughter Florence died and in her memory (some sources say “at her dying request”), he devoted the rest of his life to philanthropy, in particular, founding rescue homes for “unfortunate girls.”  These were girls who were pregnant or trying to leave prostitution. In the 1890s, Crittenton met Dr. Kate Waller Barrett, a pioneering female physician, who joined his cause. Dr. Barrett had very progressive views for her times.  She helped build Crittenton’s organization into more than 75 homes in the United States, in addition to homes in China, France, Japan and Mexico.  Many of the larger cities in the United States had a Florence Crittenton home.

charles crittendenCharles Nelson Crittenton (1833-1909)

Photo c.1913 from pamphlet What A Young Woman Ought to Know, by Mrs. Mary Wood-Allen, M.D., National Sperintendent, Purity Department, Womens Christian Temperance Union.  Pamphlet part of the “Sex & Self” series (Copyright 1913, Sylvanus Stall, London) [Available at Project Gutenberg]

The Crittenton organization was known as the National Florence Crittenton Mission.  Originally headquartered in Washington, DC, today it is known as the National Crittenton Foundation and is located in Portland, Oregon. Nationwide, there are many Crittenton institutions carrying on the work inspired by Charles Crittenton and Kate Waller Barrett, who succeeded Crittenton as president of the organization when he died 100 years ago this month.


The New York Times, Wednesday, November 17, 1909, page 9

Over the last 125 years, a number of babies have been adopted out of Crittenton homes.  But more importantly the Crittenton homes have helped many young girls and women keep their babies and live productive, enriched lives.

Kate_Waller_BarrettKate Waller Barrett, M.D. [nee Katherine Harwood Waller] (1857-1925)

Photo (date unknown) from the George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress

We’ll write more  adoption and genealogy later this week and more about Kate Waller Barrett during Women’s History Month next March.


5 Responses to “The Florence Crittenton Homes”

  • Carrol Brent Roberson says:

    I was born Jan. 2, 1941 in the Crittenton home in Terre Haute, Indiana. I know the home burned but was trying to find any information available. My mother’s name was Norma Jean Roberson.
    Thank you,
    Brent Roberson

  • Susan says:

    Nice article. Thank you for giving notice to the Florence Crittenton homes. I was lucky enough to experience the Crittenton-Hastings House in Brighton as an unwed teen. I was frightened, but it turned out to be the best experience. First time in my life I had some freedom and had a supporting network of people to talk to. I would just point out that at one point in the article you called the organization “Francis Crittenton.” Ooops. Thanks again, and be well.

  • Brian Johnson says:

    WOW!! Great information Craig. As it happens I too was just doing some research on my grandfather, Amos R. Johnson Jr. and discovered this blog entry. How surprising and facinating because my father was actually adopted.

    From what I remember of my grandfather, he sat on many boards and was always involved in the community as well as making certain that I was raised in a Catholic home and went to Catholic school.

    It looks as though we may be related. I look forward to reading more of your blog and finding out more information on the Johnson family and would much appreciate any other information you may have on Amos Johnson.


    Brian Johnson

  • Jeannette says:

    Thanks Craig for including us here! Today there are 27 Crittenton agencies in 24 states still supporting the empowerment and self sufficiency of young women and their families. Today, Dr. Barrett’s great granddaughter serves on our Board of Trustees and the family legacy lives on. Don’t hesitate to let us know if we can be of support to you in your efforts. You might be interested to know about our Young mothers @ the margin campaign,, which links digital story telling with a social policy initiative designed to ensure that young mothers have the supports they and their children need to thrive!

    The National Crittenton Foundation

  • Thank you, Craig, for featuring adoptive homes! This was a fascinating read for me. I have a half-brother out there somewhere who was adopted from one of the Boothe homes that the Salvation Army ran in the 1950’s. It would be interesting to read about those homes as well.

November 2009
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