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Sophonisba Breckinridge

AKA Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge

Born: 1-Apr-1866
Birthplace: Lexington, KY
Died: 30-Jul-1948
Location of death: Chicago, IL
Cause of death: unspecified [1]
Remains: Buried, Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, KY

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Lesbian
Occupation: Activist, Attorney, Sociologist
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Suffragette and abolitionist

Sophonisba Breckinridge earned dual doctorates at the University of Chicago, and was the first woman admitted to the Bar in Kentucky. She was the first woman to join the Order of the Coif, an honor society for lawyers who graduate at or near the top of their class. Because of her gender, however, there were few opportunities to practice law, and she earned her reputation more as a sociologist, educator, and activist for women's suffrage, against racial prejudice and segregation, and for laws against child labor. She was a friend of Jane Addams, summered at Hull House for more than ten years, and was a co-founder with Addams of the Women's Peace Party in 1915. Breckinridge and activist Edith Abbott were intimate friends for more than five decades; they co-founded the journal Social Service Review in 1927, and are widely believed to have been lovers.

She said she was first inspired by meeting Susan B. Anthony, who spent a summer with her family in Washington DC when Breckinridge was a young girl. Her father, William C. P. Breckinridge, oversaw the security detail for Confederate President Jefferson Davis and later served five terms in the US Congress. She was a first cousin (once removed) of John C. Breckinridge, Vice President under James Buchanan and the Democratic Party's Presidential candidate opposing Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

[1] Perforated ulcer and arteriosclerosis.

Father: William Campbell Preston Breckinridge (US Congressman, b. 28-Apr-1837, d. 18-Nov-1904)
Mother: Issa Desha Breckinridge (b. 18-Apr-1843, m. 19-Sep-1861, d. 14-Jul-1892)
Sister: Ella Desha Breckinridge (b. 7-Jul-1862)
Brother: Desha Breckinridge (b. 5-Aug-1867, d. after 1932)
Brother: Campbell Preston Breckinridge (b. 1869, d. 1870)
Sister: Issa Desha Breckinridge (b. 1871, d. 1872)
Sister: Mary Curry Desha Breckinridge (b. 1876, d. 1918)
Brother: Robert Jefferson Breckinridge (b. circa 1878)
Girlfriend: Edith Abbott (activist, longtime companion)

    High School: Agricultural and Mechanical College (1884)
BS, Wellesley College (1888)
    Teacher: Washington High School, Washington, DC (1888-90)
    University: MA Political Science, University of Chicago (1897)
    University: PhD Political Science, University of Chicago (1902)
    Law School: JD, University of Chicago (1907)
    Teacher: Household Administration, University of Chicago (1904-29)
    Professor: Public Welfare Administration, University of Chicago (1929-42)

    Kentucky Bar Association 1892
    National Woman's Suffrage Association Vice President (1911)
    Order of the Coif 1907
    Urban League
    Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
    Women's Trade Union League

Author of books:
The Housing Problem in Chicago (1910, with Edith Abbott)
The Delinquent Child and the Home (1912, with Edith Abbott)
Truancy and Non-Attendance in the Chicago Schools (1917)
Madeleine McDowell Breckinridge: A Leader in the New South (1921)
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)

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