Jewish Woman Founded United Way

Researchers planning United Way’s centennial year celebration recently discovered that a Jewish woman from Denver was among the organization’s founders.

Frances Wisebart Jacobs joined with four male religious leaders in 1887 to establish the first successful area-wide federated charitable organization. Jacobs served as secretary of the Charity Organization Society, which was the predecessor to United Way.

The Kentucky-born Jacobs had settled in Central City, Colorado in 1865. In addition to her work with the Charity Organization Society, she founded the first free kindergarten in Denver, was president of the Hebrew Benevolent Ladies Aid Society, was a lifetime officer of the Ladies Relief Society, and one of the founders of the National Jewish Hospital for tuberculosis patients.

In recognition of Jacobs’ accomplishments, a movement is underway to issue a postage stamp commemorating her work and to record her name in the National Women’s Hall of Fame.