A Charitable Activist

Frances (Wisebart) Jacobs was born in Kentucky in 1843 to Jewish parents who were from Bavaria. She trained to be a teacher, but when she married her life’s purpose changed. She and her husband moved to Denver, Colorado.

At the time, Denver was merely an encampment with limited permanent structures. The outbreak of tuberculosis (TB) changed that. Doctors in the east recommended that their TB patients move to a location where there was clearer air. It didn’t take long for Denver to become known as the world’s sanitarium. One-third of Colorado’s population had TB. Colorado was unprepared for the population influx.

While Frances’ husband saw to their business, she devoted her time to serving the needs of those arriving in Colorado without any resources. She created the Hebrew Ladies’ Benevolent Society to care for Jewish immigrants arriving in Denver after contacting TB.

With the success of support for Jewish immigrants, Frances moved to create an organization for all faiths. The specific focus was the plight of women.

After seeing a kindergarten in San Francisco, she returned to Denver to create a free kindergarten. Her belief was that all children, no matter of their parents’ status, should have an education.

Frances and religious leaders in Denver decided to create the Charity Organization Society as a coordinating body to support 23 charities. This organization ultimately became the United Way.

Denver desperately needed a hospital to care for those who had TB. Frances was an early advocate, and the Jewish faithful across the country created a hospital pledged to curing anyone from anywhere who had TB. It was the research conducted at the hospital that led to TB no longer being an epidemic.

Frances delivered medicine to a sick child, even though she was sick. She became ill with pneumonia and died after three months. Her funeral was attended by 4,000 people of all faiths, races, and economic status.

Just imagine what good one person can do to make a difference in the lives of others. Frances Jacobs was an activist for those who were in need. Although she was a gifted speaker, her real contribution was her relentless hands-on support.

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“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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