Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Hannah Kent Schoff 1853 ~ 1940

 

Mrs. Frederic Schoff, president of the National Congress of Mothers, is the daughter of Thomas Kent of England and Fanny Leonard Schoff of Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Mrs. Schoff is the mother of seven children, and until they were past babyhood she was in no way interested in outside work. She has been president of the National Congress of Mothers almost since its organization, being elected to succeed Mrs. Theodore W. Birney who, together with Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst, was the founder of the organization. She is also a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants, Daughters of the American Revolution, New Century Club, Philadelphia, National Education Association, Religious Education Association and the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court and Probation Association.

Mrs. Schiff's interest was aroused in behalf of children from reading of a young child eight years of age being sentenced at the criminal court for burning tip the house in which she lived, because she wanted to see the flames, and the engines run. It seemed so dreadful to Mrs. Schoff that she determined to see if there was not something that could be done for these baby criminals, or what was better, do something for the mothers of these babies to aid them in learning their responsibilities as mothers. The first juvenile court in Pennsylvania was held in Philadelphia, June 14, 1901. Mrs. Schoff attended this court. Having previously been appointed probation officer she had investigated the condition of juvenile criminals in Pennsylvania. She found that the state had two reformatories, one in the western and one in the eastern part of the state. There was also a reformatory for boys over sixteen years of age, at Huntington, Pennsylvania.

She found, in the two reformatories, sixteen hundred children comprising waifs, homeless little ones and children accused of the most serious crimes. Men and women contracting second marriages made use of this opportunity to get rid of their existing families and the children, innocent and helpless, were sent to associate with boys and girls of sixteen and eighteen years. Little children were tried in the criminal courts, kept waiting in the cages for criminals, which also housed men and women steeped in crime. There are five hundred children ranging in age from six to sixteen years of age in the Philadelphia County prison, and the same thing existed in every county in the state. There were from two to three hundred children passing through the station houses every month and these were at the mercy of the presiding judge.

Mrs. Schoff appealed to the New Century Club of Philadelphia, presenting the facts she had gathered, which naturally shocked every member of the club. They made haste to organize committees and to urge further investigation as to the conditions affecting children in Philadelphia. Patterning after other states, they succeeded in securing a juvenile court with its merciful provisions and its just judge. While absorbed in this work, Mrs. Schoff became enthusiastic in her work for the betterment of all minors, whether they belonged to the criminal or other classes who were likely to be subjected to demoralizing influences. It would make a volume to describe the work of Mrs. Schoff and her associates. They applied to the National Congress for material and information and made such a thorough investigation of existing laws and the policy of the government and the practice of the courts that the president of the United States heartily approved of the work that had been done. Following this action Mrs. Schoff applied to the National Congress of Mothers to take up this as a special work, believing that the active interest of every auxiliary of the National Congress of Mothers in every community would accomplish more by educating the parents and looking after the children than could be done in any other way.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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