Michelle Goodman: ‘Mother of Charity’ legacy lives on with United Way

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 14, 2024

Frances Wisebart Jacobs, often overshadowed in history, played a pivotal role in shaping philanthropy and social welfare in the late 19th century. 

In 1887, she co-founded the Charity Organization Society of Denver, a precursor to the United Way. Jacobs’ vision was revolutionary: to centralize charitable efforts and address community needs comprehensively.

Her legacy resonates strongly in the 21st-century United Way impact model. Jacobs recognized the interconnectedness of social issues and championed a holistic approach to community welfare.

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This principle remains at the core of the United Way’s mission, shaping its multifaceted efforts to tackle poverty, education, healthcare and more.

The United Way of the River Cities — which serves Cabell, Mason, Lincoln and Wayne Counties in West Virginia and Gallia and Lawrence counties in Ohio — continues to build upon Jacobs’ vision, emphasizing collaboration, innovation and measurable outcomes, all to build stronger, more resilient communities where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Jacobs’ founding principles continue to drive the United Way’s efforts to create lasting change in communities worldwide. Her pioneering spirit serves as an inspiration, reminding us of the power of one individual’s vision to shape the course of history.

As we reflect on Women’s History Month, let us honor Frances Wisebart Jacobs and her enduring legacy. 

Her contributions to philanthropy have left an indelible mark on the United Way and society as a whole, demonstrating the profound impact that women can have on shaping a better future for all.

Michelle Goodman is director of marketing and communication for United Way of the River Cities