Jessie F. Binford papers

 An inventory of the collection at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Summary Information

Richard J. Daley Library Special Collections and University Archives
Creator - Director
Binford, Jessie F. (Jessie Florence), 1876-1966
Binford, Jessie F. papers
Date [inclusive]
0.25 linear feet
Jessie Binford (1876-1966) was a long-time Hull-House resident and executive director of the Juvenile Protective Association. Born in Iowa, Jessie Binford moved into Hull-House in 1902 after graduating from Rockford College. While at Hull-House, she became interested in criminal justice and children's issues, becoming the Director of the Legal Aid Society when it was established at Hull-House in 1906. In 1907, she joined the Juvenile Protective League, later the Juvenile Protective Association, serving as its executive director from 1916 to 1952. Binford continued to live at Hull-House until 1963 when the settlement house was torn down to make room for the new campus of the University of Illinois. Binford was active in the fight to preserve the Harrison-Halsted neighborhood as a residential community and opposing the sale of Hull-House property to the City of Chicago. The collection contains correspondence between Jessie Binford and Hancheu Rosenbacher, 1957-1966 and newspaper clippings regarding Jessie Binford.

Preferred Citation

Jessie F. Binford papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Illinois at Chicago

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Biographical Sketch

Jessie Florence Binford was born in Marshalltown, Iowa on January 20, 1876 to Thaddeus and Angie (Beasley) Binford. She attended Rockford College and Smith College, graduating from the former in 1898. Binford embarked on two grand tours of Europe, performed volunteer work in her native Marshalltown, and spent her summers at Hull-House in Chicago until becoming a full-time resident in 1902. Jessie Binford resided at Hull-House until 1963.

A pioneer in fighting drugs as the director of the Legal Aid Society in 1906, Binford went on to become the first secretary of the Hull-House district branch of the Juvenile Protective League. The League was reorganized and expanded to become the Juvenile Protection Association in 1909 with Louise deKoven Bowen as the president of its expanded twenty-seven member board. This agency worked closely with the Cook County Juvenile Court and the world's first child guidance clinic, the Juvenile Psychopathic Institute, to promote better living conditions for children in Chicago.

Jessie Binford's early efforts were focused on changing the police organization of Chicago and other aspects of public administration in ways that would benefit women, children, and the poor. The JPA successfully urged Chicago to form a policewomen's division and to hire new specially trained officers for juvenile cases. Binford's administrative skills and successful advocacy enabled her to become general superintendent of the Juvenile Protective Agency in November 1916, a position she held until retirement in 1952.

The work of the JPA expanded beyond the needs of children and also included efforts to protect young women. During the 1920s, Binford organized special investigations into prostitution, brothels, and white slavery in Chicago often finding links between organized crime and corrupt politicians and civil servants. Supported by Louise deKoven Bowen and the U.S. Social Hygiene Board, Binford produced a special JPA report for an impaneled grand jury in 1923 that forced the Police Commissioner to close every known house of prostitution in the city. The sitting mayor, William Thompson, chose not to seek a third term of office.

The Great Depression, new trends in social work that emphasized professional training, casework, and psychoanalytic theory eclipsed the JPA in the late 1930s. Binford's agency was increasingly pushed aside by the Chicago Council of Social Agencies (responsible for allocating casework among private agencies in Chicago) and the JPA was urged to specialize in cases of child abuse and neglect. Jessie Binford continued to advocate the combination of casework with community work believing that only a transformation of fundamental conditions in threatened communities could protect the needs of children and youth.

Jessie F. Binford's outspoken advocacy led her to have regular contacts with the press and public officials in Chicago. She was known throughout the thirties, forties, and fifties for her efforts to fight the growing problem of illegal drugs. Binford preferred to identify herself as a resident of Hull-House in interviews, not as a social worker. Her last great fight, the attempt to forestall the creation of the new University of Illinois campus in 1963 on the grounds of her beloved Hull-House ended in failure, but she was the last one to leave. The City of Chicago did not serve her any eviction notice, as was done for all other remaining residents, but simply accepted her word that she would go. Jessie Binford returned to her native Iowa in 1963, giving away her family residence and choosing to spend her last three years in the Tallcorn Motor Hotel nearby. Jessie Binford supported the anti-war protest movement and praised the spirit of youth in her final interview published in 1967.

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Scope and Contents

This collection comprises correspondence of the Juvenile Protection Association regarding A Century of Progress, the Chicago Railroad Fair, and some private correspondence between Jessie Binford and members of the Hull-House Association. The collection also contains Chicago Academy of Criminology programs newspaper clippings, articles, and some notes from her final interview with Studs Terkel.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Richard J. Daley Library Special Collections and University Archives

801 S. Morgan Street
Chicago, Illinois, 60607

Restrictions on Access


Restrictions on Use


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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials

Please also see the Juvenile Protective Association Records for additional material relating to Jessie Binford.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Binford, Jessie F. (Jessie Florence), 1876-1966 -- Administration
  • Tyler, Miriam


  • Binford, Jessie F. (Jessie Florence), 1876-1966 --Sources.
  • Hull-House (Chicago, Ill.)--Sources.
  • Hull-House and Settlement House History.
  • Midwest Women's History.
  • Rosenbacher, Hancheu--Sources.

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Schultz, Rima Lunin and Adele Hast, eds. Women Building Chicago, 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

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Collection Inventory

Series I: Jessie F. Binford Papers 

Box Folder

Chicago's Schools 27:2, Chicago's School Committee., Winter 1960/1961 

1 1

Letter to Hancheu Rosenbacher from Ruth B. Orney (Mrs. Wallace H.), 19 July 1966 

1 2

Correspondence, 1957-1959 

1 3

Correspondence, 1960-1962 

1 4

Correspondence, 1963 

1 5

Correspondence and newspaper clippings, 1964 

1 6

Correspondence, 1966 

1 7

Letter to Cramie Rosenbacher from Jessie Binford, 25 November 1962 

1 8

Letter to Studs Terkel from Hancheu Rosenbacher, 1966 

1 9

Newspaper clippings, 1956-1966 

1 10

Prof. Melvin Holli correspondence with Jessie Binford, 1965 

1 11

Detzer, Karl. "Miss Jessie Fights for the Kids," Reader's Digest, 1950 

1 12

"Chicago Honors Jessie Binford," The Social Science Review 33:2, June 1959 

1 13

Correspondence regarding new director for Hull-House, 1943 

1 14

Chicago Academy of Criminology programs, 1939 

1 15

Juvenile Protection Association correspondence regarding A Century of Progress, 1934-1935 

1 16

Juvenile Protection Association regarding Chicago Railroad Fair, 1949 

1 17

Correspondence between Jessie Binford and Harvey L. Long, April 1964 

1 18

Newspaper clippings, 1929-1966 

1 19

Notes from interview of Jessie Binford by Studs Terkel, 1966 

1 20

"Community Responsibility for Recreation Facilities," Our Common Cause, Civilization International Congress of Women Report, July 1933 

1 21

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