When a need arises, good people act. In 1877, the Ladies Aid Society of Centenary Methodist Church saw poor, troubled women committing crimes, prostituting themselves. Realizing that without help these women were trapped in a downward spiral of despair and crime, the Ladies Aid Society wanted to establish a safe place for such women. On Aug. 26, 1900, the Florence Crittenton Home for Fallen Women was dedicated in Chattanooga.
Prior to the dedication, the Ladies Aid Society rented a home. It was too small and inadequate for their needs. Wanting a large facility that they controlled, they partnered with Charles Crittenton, an evangelist from New York City, in the mid-1890s. He founded the Florence Crittenton Association, an organization committed to establishing homes of refuge for women throughout the nation.
Through their combined efforts, they motivated the local citizenry to donate a sufficient amount of money to purchase and renovate an old house. The home, located at 625 E. Fifth St., had room for 25 occupants, twice the size of the previous home. Twelve women transferred from the rental to the new home.
A large crowd welcomed these women at the dedication service. Dr. M’Ferrins addressed the crowd. He spoke of hope and redemption. To illustrate the potential impact of redemption, he cited Jean Valjean of Victor Hugo’s "Les Misérables," who through faith and the help of individuals turned his life around and was then able to bless others.
Eighteen years later, the home burned down. However, the destruction of the building did not diminish their drive or determination. The mission continued and blossomed. Other programs and homes were established to meet additional needs, such as a home for unwed mothers.
Over the years, the name has changed several times, but the underlying conviction and motivation hasn’t. The Partnership for Families, Children and Adults carries on the tradition, hope and desire of the original women who brought about the first Crittenton home in Chattanooga.
David Schmidt is an avid history buff. He and his family moved to Chattanooga several years ago. He has fallen in love with the community and its history. You can contact him directly at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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