Florence Kelley, the Map Maker and Advocate


By Beverly Triana-Tremain Ph.D.


Florence Kelley (1859-1932) was a staunch supporter of working women and children.

Born in Philadelphia, Kelley’s father exposed her to factories and their dangerous conditions. Some of these factories employed children as young as 7-years old. This observation led to her fighting for child labor reform. In 1891, Kelley moved to Chicago and quickly became involved in more social change. Her work and that of others led to the canvassing of neighborhoods to describe the living conditions of the poor, collecting number of residents in each home, wages, and, nationality. Kelley and her team extended the work of the data collection on poverty and created early forms of data visualizations.  Many in this effort believed that simply more awareness about these conditions would cause policy change. However, change was slow to occur. Her many feats include being the first general secretary of the National Consumers League and a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909. She was a true pioneer with a social conscience. Until her death, she brought more visual attention, through maps and calls for reformation, to the plight of working children, the status of women, and the consequences of being poor.


If you would like to learn more about making maps, attend the South Southwest’s From Cleaning to Mapping with Tableau Public on April 13, 2023 at 10:30 a.m. to noon (CST).


  • Kish-Sklar, K. Kerr, C. H. (1986). Notes of sixty years: The autobiography of Florence Kelley. Charles H. Kerr Publishing.
  • Blakemore, E. (2016, September 12). These early infographics illustrated the plight of America’s poor [online blog]. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/these-early-infographics-illustrated-plight-americas-poor-180960414/
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