Harriet Hammond McCormick

National Cyclopaedia of American Biography

McCORMICK, Harriet Hammond, was born in Newport, England, Dec. 21, 1862, daughter of George Woodbury Hammond, an American ship-owner and sea captain, and Emma Young Hammond, his wife, of Newport. In the following year Capt. Hammond took his wife and infant daughter to Haverhill, Mass., the home of his parents. After his death in 1875 Harriet was adopted by her aunt, Mrs. Edward S. Stickney (Elizabeth Hammond), of Chicago, Ill., and from that time until her death made her home in Chicago. Her education at Miss Kirkland's school in Chicago was supplemented by two years of European travel and study. She was married at Monterey, Calif., Mar. 5, 1889, to Cyrus Hall McCormick (q.v.), the son of the inventor of the reaper, and had three children: Cyrus, Gordon and Elizabeth, the last dying in childhood. Mrs. McCormick's supreme interest always centered in her family and her home, although worthwhile objects in many fields received her sympathetic consideration. It was largely through her influence, as a result of her study of the writings of Jacob Riis and her visit to the sociological exhibits of the Paris exposition of 1900, that the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. was among the pioneers in the introduction of industrial welfare work for employees. She was an earnest advocate of the cause of woman's suffrage; a constructive leader in the work of the Y. W. C. A.; and she gave of herself, as well as of her means, in the interest of many other causes. Whether it was the Visiting Nurse Association, of which she was for many years an officer, or a comparatively unknown philanthropy, it was always her policy to investigate carefully not only its aim but its business standards. After the death of her daughter in 1905, Mrs. McCormick became increasingly interested in those civic and philanthropic movements which are concerned with child welfare. In their desire to help other children in memory of their daughter, Mr. and Mrs. McCormick made a thorough survey of the needs of childhood, and in 1908 established the Elizabeth McCormick memorial fund, "to improve the conditions of child life in the United States." The first work undertaken by the fund was a demonstration of the value of baby tents as centers of medical and nursing care for the children of the congested districts of the city. Out of this work grew the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago. The trustees of the memorial fund then developed a program for promoting and maintaining open-air and open-window schoolrooms, carrying it beyond the experimental stage to its present definite inclusion in the educational system of Chicago and many other cities. Further studies in child welfare led to the adoption, a year before Mrs. McCormick's death, of an extensive nutrition program, concerned principally with underweight and malnutrition among school children. General health education for children also has been an important part of the work of the fund. It was her devotion to the cause of children, and her vision of the opportunities for service in this important and neglected field, which prompted Mrs. McCormick to promote and finance the child welfare exhibit held in 1911 in the Chicago coliseum. Under her leadership, and with the cooperation of an able group of men and women, this exhibit attracted more than 400,000 visitors and stimulated nation-wide activity in behalf of children. During the World war, she was outstanding in her patriotic activities. She was treasurer of the woman's committee of the national council of defense, Illinois division, and vice-chairman of the united war work drive for Chicago; the first meeting outside of New York city in the interests of the wartime program of the Y. W. C. A. was held in her home. In the social life of Chicago, Mrs. McCormick was a gracious leader, such leadership seldom having been accorded to one whose nobility of soul combined more perfectly with her loveliness of person. Her interest in civic, literary and artistic affairs was expressed in her active affiliation with many important organizations, among them the Woman's City Club of Chicago, the Fortnightly, the Friday Club, the Society of Colonial Dames, the Garden Club, and the Colony Club of New York. She was a communicant of the Episcopal 'church, and after her marriage was also closely identified with the Presbyterian church and its varied activities. She found especial pleasure in outdoor life, in walking, gardening, and the development of the natural beauties of Walden, her country home at Lake Forest. She died in Chicago, Ill., Jan. 17, 1921.


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