Who was Kitty Felton?

Who was Kitty Felton?

Katharine Conway “Kitty” Felton (1873 – 1940)

Kitty Felton is credited with forming the very first employment agency in the US, among many other socially responsible acts. Kitty not only started the staffing industry in the United States states over a century ago – an impressive accomplishment for a woman in those days. Kitty also worked hard for her community in a myriad of socially responsible and selfless ways. As a woman owned business, that is also very active in many local social causes, PB&A is proud to carry on the heritage of this proud and historic woman.

Katharine Conway “Kitty” Felton (1873 – 1940) is a name that became synonymous with social work for her innovative reforms over the 40 years of her tenure as head of Associated Charities in San Francisco beginning at the turn of the 19th century.

Felton was born in Oakland, California, on July 7, 1873, the daughter of a prominent San Francisco Bay Area family. Her father John Brooks Felton, was a judge and mayor of Oakland and has the Santa Cruz County town of Felton, California named for him. She was called “the conscience of the city” because of her dedication to social work.

In 1901, at the age of 28, Felton was appointed director of Associated Charities (now Family Service Agency of San Francisco).

In the crucible of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, she became the head of the social service efforts to restore the life of the people of the city and developed innovative solutions that are common practice today. She created the first employment agency in the United States, developed mental health counseling to deal with the traumatized, became an advocate for foster care, and by combining private and public funds made it possible for widowed and single mothers to remain at home with their children. She also was responsible for emptying the refugee camps and finding placements for the dispossessed, all of which she accomplished within one year. These innovations became known as the “San Francisco Model” by 1907 and swept the nation as the primary mode of social service throughout the country by 1909.

Felton drafted nearly all of the State’s early legislation covering welfare and relief.

In 1928, with the help of her friend architect Bernard Maybeck, she built what is today the historic office building of Family Service Agency at 1010 Gough Street in San Francisco.

In 2006, the Felton Institute for Excellence in Clinical Training (www.feltoninstitute.org) was named for Kitty Felton.

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