HANCOCK, CORNELIA ( 8 February 1840, Hancock Bridge, NJ--31 December 1927, Atlantic City, NJ). Education: Salem, NJ, Adademy. Career: Nurse; teacher; social worker.
Cornelia Hancock was raised in a Hicksite Quaker family of pronounced antislavery sentiments. During the Civil War her two brothers joined the Union Army. After Gettysburg her brother-in-law, who had volunteered as an emergency surgeon, encouraged Cornelia to help him. Rejected as an army nurse because of her good looks and youth, she went to Gettysburg untrained and on her own and began serving. In three weeks she had charge of eight tents of amputees. Later she worked with the Contraband Negroes in Washington and, holding a permanent pass from the secretary of war, nursed the wounded in the Wilderness Campaign.
In January 1866 the Friends Association for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedman sent her to South Carolina. She began teaching black children in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. With financial aid from Friends and the Freedmen's Bureau, she created a school and remained as principal of the Laing School for ten years.
On a trip to England she learned how Londoners dealt with the urban poor. In Philadelphia in 1878 she helped found the Society for Organizing Charity (now the Family Society of Philadelphia) and served as one of the first workers. In 1883 she joined in the establishment of the Children's Aid Society and served as a secretary and board member. In the 1880s she attempted to show in the Wrightsville slum of Philadelphia how benevolent ownership could help tenants. In the name of "housing reform" Wrightsville obtained better sanitation, libraries, a savings bank, recreation areas, and an improved school system. She continued living in Wrightsville until 1914 by which time the tenants had become homeowners.