The Los Angeles Florence Crittenton Home was established in Los Angeles in 1892, as a cooperative effort between Reverend J. W. Ellsworth and Charles Crittenton, an evangelist who was responsible for the establishment of many similar homes throughout the United States. In 1882, Mr. Crittenton's youngest daughter, Florence, died suddenly of scarlet fever. The shock of her death led Crittenton to give up his highly successful pharmaceutical business and begin an evangelical ministry. Crittenton's ministry soon concentrated on the reclamation of prostitutes and other women who had fallen on hard times. Crittenton would travel the country for the next two decades, preaching to large crowds and donating much of the proceeds of this ministry to the establishment of local homes for the care of "fallen women" and their children. Almost immediately, the home--named for his daughter Florence--became refuges for unwed mothers. In 1898, the Florence Crittenton Mission was given a national charter, which allowed for coordinated control of these various homes across the country.
Crittenton's successor as coordinator of the Mission's efforts was Dr. Kate Waller Barrett, under whose tenure, the Florence Crittenton Homes established the goals and ideology that would characterize the Crittenton Mission throughout the twentieth century.
Dr. Barrett stressed the value of motherhood as a means for creating social services that were suitable for women. While family planning was embraced, for instance, Barrett was insistent that every effort should be made to persuade unwed mothers to keep their children. The goal of the Florence Crittenton Homes, then, was to make productive citizens and suitable mothers out of young women who had been led to motherhood by irregular life-styles.
The Los Angeles Florence Crittenton Home was established in 1892. At the time, Charles Crittenton was on the West Coast, preaching, and establishing homes in San Francisco and San Jose. Wishing to establish a home in Los Angeles, Reverend J. W. Ellsworth apparently requested Crittenton's aid in raising funds for a home to be built on lands donated by Reverend W. C. Stevens. The Home experienced financial difficulties that culminated in a prolonged intervention by Dr. Barrett, who restructured the organization, creating both a board of directors who handled business affairs and a separate organization to manage the day-to-day operations of the home. The financial turn-around was dramatic enough that the Los Angeles Florence Crittenton Home was able to move into a new, $75,000 facility, in 1915. Over the years, the organization of the Florence Crittenton Home has been refined. In 1936, funding and volunteer coordination was greatly enhanced by the creation of "circles," smaller groups--sometimes project-oriented, sometimes associated with other charitable organizations--that provided a sense of structure and direction to volunteer activity. In 1950 the Florence Crittenton Home Association was formed.
The Home was fortunate to have a series of exceptionally talented administrators. The president of the Home between 1914 and 1929 was Mrs. Henry Hurd, who established the new organization in line with the principles of Dr. Barrett. Mrs. Hurd was succeeded by Mrs. Dora Shaw Heffner, who shepherded the Home through the difficult Depression and World War II years. Mrs. Heffner was greatly aided by Miss Ruth Swalestuen, who was superintendent of the activities of the home for nearly three decades. Shortly after Miss Swalestuen's retirement, Ms. Katheryn Nielsen became superintendent. Ms. Nielsen oversaw the transition of the mission of the Crittenton Center during the difficult 1960s and 1970s.
During the last third of the twentieth century, the mission of the Crittenton Home began to change somewhat, in response to social changes. As extramarital sexual behavior became less taboo and illegitimacy lost much of its social approbation, the Los Angeles Florence Crittenton Home began to focus more on girls and young women who were undergoing social or familial stress for a wide variety of reasons. This change of emphasis is reflected in the later name changes for the Home. In 1969, it became "Florence Crittenton Services," and in 1982 it was renamed "Crittenton Center for Young Women & Infants." Despite these changes, the Center has remained true to the original vision of Charles Crittenton, to restore dignity and a place in society to young women who have no other means of support.