An outstanding example of the difference one dedicated person can make, Frances Wisebart Jacobs, known as Colorado’s “Mother of Charities,” was the driving force behind the concept of today’s United Way and a free hospital for tuberculosis victims.
Jacobs grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and moved to Central City, Colorado with her husband in 1863. After 7 years, the family moved to Denver where she dedicated her life to help those in need. She started the Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society, known today as Jewish Family Service of Colorado and worked to establish the nonsectarian Ladies’ Relief Society. In 1887 she and three church leaders created the Charity Organization Society, a federation of charities with coordinated fundraising and funds distribution, the model that led to today’s United Way. Jacobs also spearheaded Denver’s first free kindergarten for poor children. She spent her days visiting the homeless and desperate families before there were social workers and attended National Charity Conferences.
In 1892, with thousands of helpless consumptives living on the streets of Denver, she called upon the national Jewish community to contribute to building a free hospital that today stands as internationally renowned National Jewish Health, the leading respiratory hospital in the nation.
Jacobs is the only woman among the 16 Colorado pioneers honored with stained glass portraits in the State Capitol Rotunda.