Our History

Historic Photo of Montana

Celebrating a Legacy and Looking Forward

Grounded in the lessons of a rich history

As a national organization that has been “doing the work” for 135 years, we have a responsibility to answer the questions presented by the fact that we are still supporting the same population. We are challenged to be introspective, to speak the truth, to be transparent, and to “get it right” this time. The cost to girls, young women, their families, communities, and our country, is too great to ignore.

Our History

Mr. Charles Crittenton and Dr. Kate Waller Barrett invested their lives in “the rescue of unfortunate lost girls”

As a result of the dedication of co-founders, Mr. Charles Crittenton, and  Dr. Kate Waller Barrett, the Crittenton social welfare movement was born with a social justice foundation grounded in a commitment to the rights of women and that they enjoy the same opportunities as men, to change their lives, and to support themselves and their families.

Mr. Crittenton and Dr. Barrett believed that the most effective way to address compelling social issues was at the local level, consistent with the culture, needs, and context of each community. Our founders understood that local organizations across the country would be stronger through an association with their sister organizations, who together could connect the dots and truly catalyze social change.

Through their advocacy, in 1898, The National Florence Crittenton Mission was established, known today as National Crittenton. It was the first charitable organization created through congressional charter as the national umbrella to unite the Crittenton homes.

Aligning Our Work for the 21st Century

More than ten years ago, the trustees of National Crittenton made the decision to leave the auspices of the Child Welfare League of America. This departure marked a reinvention of the 124-year-old organization with a sharpened focus on elevating the needs and potential of girls, young women, and their families whose lives are impacted by violence and childhood adversity. Today, with a family of agencies 26 members strong, a robust advocacy effort including young women and agency representatives, innovative programs, and more, National Crittenton has reinvigorated and strengthened the original model crafted by Mr. Crittenton and Dr. Barrett more than a century ago.

Our History

Mr. Charles Crittenton

The Brother of Girls

In 1883, self-made millionaire Charles Crittenton opened the first Crittenton home in New York City.

A pioneer and social entrepreneur well ahead of his time

Upon the death of his daughter, Florence, Mr. Crittenton dedicated his energy and his finances toward the “betterment of this needy class,” consisting of girls and women commercially exploited for sex, those escaping violent relationships, single mothers, homeless/abandoned girls, and immigrant women who came to this country with the promise of a husband, only to be betrayed. Mr. Crittenton invested his life in advocating and funding the establishment of Crittenton homes across the country to support women committed to changing their lives.

The “Good News” Train
In 1893, Mr. Crittenton purchased and boarded the “Good News” Train to travel across the country catalyzing local support for girls, young women, and women in need.

Good News Train Photo

Charles Crittenton Photo

Dr. Kate Waller Barrett

An innovative woman far ahead of her time

A humanitarian, philanthropist, and social reformer

A strong advocate for girls and young women

While raising six children and opening a shelter for unwed mothers, she managed to obtain her M.D. and Sc.D. In 1895, Dr. Barrett officially joined forces with Charles Crittenton to co-found the National Florence Crittenton Mission, now known as The National Crittenton Foundation. Together, they established rescue homes for unwed mothers and “prostitutes” across the country. More than 70 Crittenton homes operated in the United States and abroad at the time of her death.

In 1909, Dr. Barrett became the Mission’s President, and ignited the movement of supporting girls and young women. Her advocacy efforts and leadership also supported girls and young women beyond the walls of the Crittenton homes.

Just a few of her many accomplishments include:

  • Creating community action by partnering with John D. Rockefeller to create an anti-trafficking film titled, “Traffic in Souls;”
  • Voted President of the National Council of Women;
  • Appointed as a delegate to the 1924 Democratic National Convention;
  • Actively engaging Ms. Sarah Malone, Director of the Kansas “colored home” in the Mission’s leadership;
  • Appointed as special agent of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration for her anti-sex trafficking and system change advocacy, changing the way girls and young women were treated while in custody

Dr. Kate Waller Barrett Photo


National Crittenton has supported girls, young women, and their families since 1883