Find Your United Way Donate
United Way Blog

The Woman Behind the Movement

Frances Wisebart JacobsToday is International Women's Day, a great day to remember andrecognize all the contributions that women have made in communities around the world. One of my favorite women of history is Frances Wisebart Jacobs, who 125 years ago, had the vision to start (with some of her peers) what would become the first United Way in Denver, Colorado. Frances was a motivating leader whose work included founding the Denver Ladies' Relief Society creating the first free kindergarten in Denver, as well as establishing a hospital to specialize to help manage the tuberculosis epidemic of the day. When Frances saw when something needed to be done, she pulled together the resources and people to get it done.

Her spirit is alive today in the women of United Way Women's Leadership Councils (WLCs) created and led by dynamic women, their proof positive mission is clear "mobilize the power of women to advance the common good." Across the country, members of WLCs are grounded in the idea that the building blocks of a good life — education, income, and health — lift the community as a whole and create a better life for all. 

In addition to local goals, WLCs are working to help ensure every student has the resources necessary to learn to read well by the end of 3rd grade.  Members are outraged that two-thirds of all fourth graders are not proficient in reading, which studies show, make them 4 times more likely to drop-out of high school.  Like Frances would have before us, the WLC are taking action to change this. One strategy that we know works, is connecting a caring adult with a struggling student.

If you also think that it is an outrage that kids today are not learning to read well, there is something you can do — pledge to be a volunteer reader at www.unitedway.org/wlcvolunteer.