Frances Addelson

b. 1909

Frances Addelson was born in 1909 in Boston, Massachusetts.  As a young child, Frances’ father died during the influenza epidemic, and her mother was not equipped to care for her and her siblings. Consequently, they were placed in a Jewish orphanage. Addelson graduated from Dorchester High School for Girls in 1926, attended Radcliffe College, and earned her degree in 1930.  She later went back to school and earned a master’s degree in social work from Simmons College in 1954.  Frances pursued a career in social work and was a senior social worker at Beth Israel Hospital until 1974, where she helped counsel countless women who came to the hospital seeking abortions before the procedure was officially legalized during the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973.

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Scope and Content Note

Frances describes her family history, some of her earliest childhood memories growing up in Boston, losing her father to the 1918 influenza epidemic, and being sent to a Jewish orphanage because her mother was not able to care for Frances and her siblings.  Frances attended Hebrew School and synagogue while living in the Home for Jewish Children.  She explains that although her experience was mostly positive, this experience would leave life-long effects.  Frances talks about growing up in the group home with hundreds of other children, graduating from high school where she was very involved in school activities, and attending Radcliffe College upon the urging of a mentor.  Frances talks in great detail about her time at Radcliffe, her course of study, experiences of antisemitism, and attending school during the height of the Great Depression.  She traces her career path after graduation, from a position with Traveler’s Aid helping vulnerable populations who were new to Boston to two years as head social worker at the Framingham Prison for Women, before meeting her husband, settling in Boston, and starting her family.  In the 1940s, she returned to work while her children were still young, a rather unusual event for that time period.  While working as a social worker at Beth Israel Hospital in the early 1970’s, Frances would later write two articles published in medical journals about her experience during this time.  Although not a very religious person, Frances felt connected to the Jewish notion of social justice and remained very active until an accident in the late 1990s.


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How to cite this page

Oral History of Frances Addelson. Interviewed by Rochelle Rothchild. 18 October 1997, 14 November 1997, 10 December 1997. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 18, 2024) <>.

Oral History of Frances Addelson by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at