Eliot, Frederick May, Abigail Adams Eliot and Martha May Eliot

Eliot,  Frederick May, Abigail Adams Eliot and Martha May Eliot

The children of Christopher Rhodes Eliot and Mary Jackson May Eliot in March 1895 (from left):

Frederick May Eliot (September 15, 1889-February 17, 1958) was born in Dorchester and received an AB in 1911, an AM in 1912, and an STD in 1915 from Harvard. On May 16, 1915, he was ordained as associate minister by the First Parish in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he served until August 31, 1917. In 1917, he accepted a call to Unity Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he served until 1937. He chaired the Unitarian Commission on Appraisal from 1934 to 1937. In 1937 he was elected president of the American Unitarian Association and held that post until his death.

Martha May Eliot (April 7, 1891-February 14, 1978) was born in Dorchester and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1913. She studied for four years at Johns Hopkins Medical School and received her MD with honors in 1918. From the early 1920s to 1935, she served in various positions in the pediatric department of Yale Medical School. From 1924 to 1934, she also served as director of the Division of Child and Maternal Health of the federal Children's Bureau. From 1934 to 1949, she was the bureau's assistant chief. She then served for two years as the assistant director general of the World Health Organization in Geneva. On her return to the United States, she was appointed chief of the Children's Bureau, a position she held until 1957. In 1957, she accepted a professorship in child and maternal health at the Harvard School of Public Health. She retired in 1960.

Abigail Adams Eliot (October 9, 1892-October 29, 1992) was born in Dorchester and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1914. From 1914 to 1917, she worked for the Children's Mission to Children in Boston, and, in 1918, served as district secretary for Associated Charities. After studying at Oxford University in 1919-20, she worked for the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Commission. In 1921, Elizabeth Pearson asked her to direct a nursery school the Women's Education Association was planning to open. In 1922, she took over a former nursery school in Roxbury and turned it into the Ruggles Street Nursery School and Training Center, one of the first nursery education programs in the United States. In 1926, she started the Nursery Training School of Boston, which she directed until 1952. In 1951, she arranged for it to become part of Tufts University, where it is now the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development. She taught at the Pacific Oaks Friends School in Pasadena, California, and the Brooks School in Concord, Massachusetts, as well as doing volunteer work in services to the elderly and in mental health. She received an EdM in 1926 and an EdD in 1930 from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

For more information: There are biographies of Frederick and Martha Eliot in American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), v. 7; and biographies of Abigail and Martha Eliot in Notable American Women (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press), v. 5 (2004). [Cabinet card (credit: Partridge, Boston and Brookline): bMS 901/1]