Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge

Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge

Breckinridge, Sophonisba Preston, 1866-1948, American pioneer social worker, educator, and author, b. Lexington, Ky., grad. Wellesley, 1888, Ph.D. Univ. of Chicago, 1901. She was the first woman to be admitted (1897) to the bar in Kentucky, but abandoned the practice of law to enter social work at Hull House, Chicago. After 1902 she taught at the Univ. of Chicago, where later she was professor of social economy (1925-29) and then professor of public welfare (1929-33). In 1934 she was president of the American Association of Schools of Social Work. As a delegate to the Pan-American Conference at Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1933, she was the first woman to represent the United States at an international conference. Her published works include The Delinquent Child and the Home (with Edith Abbott, 1912), Family Welfare in a Metropolitan Community (1924), Public Welfare Administration in a Metropolitan Community (1927), and Women in the Twentieth Century (1933).
Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge (April 1 1866July 30 1948) was an American activist. Born in Lexington, Kentucky, she was the daughter of William Breckinridge, a member of Congress from Kentucky and a lawyer. Her grandfather was the abolitionist minister Robert Jefferson Breckinridge. Her great-grandfather was John Breckinridge.

She graduated from Wellesley College in 1888 and worked as a school teacher in Washington, DC, before studying law at her father's office. She later became the first woman to be admitted to the Kentucky bar. She was also the first woman to graduate from the law school of the University of Chicago.

"My record there was not distinguished", she wrote, "but the faculty and students were hot, and the fact that the law school, like the rest of the University...accepted men and women students on equal terms publicly" ().

She obtained an appointment as a part-time professor in the Department of Household Administration, and in 1907 became a resident of Hull House. As a resident of Hull House until 1920, she became active in several causes, including:

She wrote several books on family, public welfare, and children.

The University of Chicago currently houses undergraduate students in Breckinridge House, named after Sophonisba Breckinridge, where students celebrate "Sophie Day" in the early Spring.


  • The Delinquent Child and the Home (1912)
  • Truancy and Non-Attendance in the Chicago Schools (1917)
  • New Homes for Old (1921)
  • Family Welfare Work in a Metropolitan Community (1924)
  • Public Welfare Administration (1927)
  • Women in the Twentieth Century (1933)
  • The Family and the State (1934)

Organization Involvement

  • National American Woman's Suffrage Association (Served as vice president)
  • American Social Science Association (ASSA)
  • National Conference of Social Workers (NCSW)
  • American Association of Social Workers (AASW)
  • Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy (CSCP)


On July 30 1948 Sophonisba Breckinridge died from a perforated ulcer and arteriosclerosis, aged 82,

External links

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