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Book Spotlight: Julia Lathrop: Social Service and Progressive Government

In her most recent book, Miriam Cohen WS ‘75 profiles Julia Lathrop, an early 1900s social reformer. Lathrop, nicknamed “America’s First Official Mother,” was the director of the U.S. Children’s Bureau from 1912 to 1922. The first woman to head a U.S. federal bureau, she worked on issues like child labor, infant and maternal mortality, and juvenile delinquency. Throughout her career, Lathrop remained committed to reforming policies around some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations. She co-founded one of America’s first schools of social work, became a leader in the League of Women Voters, and advised the League of Nations on issues of child welfare.

Dr. Cohen traces Lathrop’s life from childhood to Vassar College, Hull House to the U.S. Government, bringing to light Lathrop’s enduring legacy in social politics and the rights of women and children. The book is a part of a series of biographies called Lives of American Women, intended as a dynamic read for undergraduates; each volume explores the specific aspects of the subject’s life that exemplified the time or secured her place as an influential figure.

Dr. Cohen, the Evalyn Clark Professor of History at Vassar College, is an historian of American women and 20th-century social reform. In 1993 she published Workshop to Office: Two Generations of Italian Women in New York City, which was a finalist for the Thomas Znaniecki Prize of the American Sociological Association.


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