Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mother of Charities

Reading the biography of Frances Wisebart Jacobs leaves little doubt that she well-deserved the title of “Denver’s Mother of Charities.” Over the three decades that she lived in Denver, Jacobs transformed her zealotry for Jewish communal life into a passion for helping the entire city.

Born in Kentucky on March 29, 1843, Frances Wisebart was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. After completing her public education, she taught school until her 1863 marriage to Abraham Jacobs (her brother Benjamin’s business partner). The couple lived in Central City, Colorado, until they moved to Denver in 1869, after their store was destroyed in a fire.

In 1872, Jacobs helped found the Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society. The Society was created in response to the poverty and illness that was rampant among the primarily Eastern European immigrant Jewish population in Denver. Two years later, Jacobs widened her philanthropic scope and helped to organize the Denver Ladies Relief Society. At the same time as she organized these two societies and raised her family, Jacobs also focused her incredible energy on early education and opened the city’s first free kindergarten in 1885.

With all her knowledge of charity work, Jacobs joined forces with several religious leaders to form the Charitable Organization Society, which later charged its name to Community Chest and  eventually developed into the United Way.

Colorado’s climate and altitude drew a large number of consumptives (those suffering from tuberculosis). Throughout her work, Jacobs paid particular attention to the needs of those suffering this disease, the majority of whom could not be cured. She therefore put tremendous energy into creating a special tuberculosis hospital, but, tragically, Frances Jacobs succumbed to pneumonia seven years before the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives opened.

Frances Wisebart Jacobs has been greatly honored since her passing. She is one of 16 Colorado settlers with a portrait window in the Colorado Capital Dome.

March is National Women’s History Month.


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