One snowy morning soon after Christmas 1891, Jane Addams, with the cook's baby on her hip and a neighbor's child at her skirts, answered a knock at the front door. On the other side she found Florence Kelley, who, it would emerge, was thirty-two years old and had just come from New York City with her three children to escape an abusive marriage and start a new life. At the moment she knocked at Hull House's door, her two sons and a daughter, aged six, three, and five, were at the Woman's Christian Temperance Union nursery for working mothers. To prevent their father from reclaiming them, Kelley planned to hide them with a friend's brother in a suburb until she could get her divorce and gain legal custody under Illinois law. Then she planned to set up her own household in Chicago.1 Meanwhile, she needed a place to stay and a way to earn a living.
Jane Addams was happy to assist. She offered Kelley a bed at Hull House and went with her the next day to Henry Demarest Lloyd's house in Winnetka to make arrangements for the children. Lloyd, the socialist pro-labor journalist who was a friend of Addams's, was also the brother of Kelley's friend Caro Lloyd—altogether a splendid friend-in-arms for Kelley, who sorely needed friends just then. Soon afterward, Addams created a job for Kelley as the head of a new Hull House project, a labor bureau to help unemployed girls and women find employment. Kelley's salary was to be funded partly by Addams and partly by the Chicago Woman's Club.2 Kelley intended to find more challenging work eventually, but for the moment she was grateful for the income.
Florence Kelley was a rare being in Jane Addams and Ellen Starr's world. She was a career social reformer, a Marxist socialist, and, most impressively, a successful author. She had published twenty-five articles and two pamphlets in national and international publications, mostly on labor issues, and translated one book, Friedrich Engels's landmark investigation