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Mile High United Way, Lawmakers Celebrate Frances Wisebart Jacobs Day and Women’s History Month at Colorado State Capitol

DENVER – On Tuesday, March 21, Mile High United Way was joined by members of the Colorado House of Representatives in celebrating the legacy of Frances Wisebart Jacobs. Known as “Colorado’s Mother of Charities,” Wisebart Jacobs led four faith leaders in 1887 in establishing the Charity Organization Society, which would later become Mile High United Way. She is also credited as founder of the Jewish Family Service of Colorado and National Jewish Health.

Wisebart Jacobs’ 180th birthday is March 29, the same month as Women’s History Month and the same year as Mile High United Way’s 135th anniversary. With the founding of Mile High United Way, the first United Way in the world, Wisebart Jacobs launched a worldwide movement that now engages in communities spanning 95% of the United States, and serves more than 1,800 communities across 37 countries and territories worldwide.

Colorado State Reps. Marc Snyder and Naquetta Ricks and other community leaders spoke during a ceremony before the House was called to order, noting the example that Wisebart Jacobs sets for women and girls in Colorado and the lasting positive impact of her legacy through Mile High United Way.

“[Wisebart Jacobs’] work is a reminder to all of us that serving community means standing up for women, families and children, because when they succeed, we all succeed,” said Ricks. “Her legacy of acceptance and community lives within Mile High United Way today. Her determination should be an inspiration to us all.”

Snyder emphasized how Wisebart Jacobs’ legacy for meeting the basic needs of Coloradans is evident in Mile High United Way’s 211 Help Center.

“At a time when women couldn’t vote and had few of the rights and privileges that women in the U.S. enjoy today, Frances demonstrated the power of one person to make changes,” said Jill Tietjen, CEO of Technically Speaking and author of Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America.

Gov. Jared Polis also declared March 21, 2023, “Francis Wisebart Jacobs Day” in the State of Colorado. “Frances Wisebart Jacobs’ spirit of dedication, unity and generosity lives on in the organizations she helped create and in the many Coloradans she has inspired,” Gov. Polis stated in his proclamation.

Below are some interesting facts about Wisebart Jacobs’ lasting impact on our community, Colorado and the world.

  • Wisebart Jacobs and her husband, Abraham Jacobs, had three children – two sons and a daughter. They moved to Denver from Central City in 1870 and Wisebart Jacobs became very involved in charity work for the rest of her life.
  • In 1872, Wisebart Jacobs organized and became president of the Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society.
  • In 1874, Wisebart Jacobs organized and served as an officer for the Ladies’ Relief Society.
  • In 1883, she sponsored a hospital benefit in response to the growing need for care of people suffering with tuberculosis. By 1889, the congregants at Temple Emmanuel organized a Jewish Hospital Association, which would lead to the development of the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives, now known as National Jewish Health, 10 years later – the first hospital of its kind in the world.
  • In 1885, she established the Free Kindergarten Association and opened Denver’s first free kindergarten at Stanley Public School.
  • In 1887, Wisebart Jacobs led four clergymen in the creation of Denver’s Charity Organization Society, the nation’s first successful, federated charitable organization, which would later become Mile High United Way – the first United Way in the world. There are now 1,800 local United Way chapters worldwide. Wisebart Jacobs served as secretary for the organization until her death in 1892.


For additional information about Frances Wisebart Jacobs and Mile High United Way, or for photos from the March 21 event, please contact Andrew Keating (720-701-0666, andrew.keating@unitedwaydenver.org).


About Mile High United Way
Working side-by-side with the community, Mile High United Way takes on critical human services issues facing our seven-county footprint, including the Metro Denver, Boulder and Broomfield communities. Our united approach changes the odds for all children, families, and individuals in our community, so that all have the opportunity to succeed. Learn more at unitedwaydenver.org and follow us on social media @UnitedWayDenver.

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