Sue Young Histories

Cornelia De Bey 1860 - 1948

February 19, 2008

Hull HouseCornelia De Bey 1860? - 1948 homeopath, politician, suffragist, educator - Cornelia was an irrepressible force in Chicago, working alongside homeopaths and homeopathic supporters, she pushed America forward into a new age.

Physician and social reformer Cornelia De Bey was born in Holland and emigrated to the United States with her family. Her father was a minister and a leader in the Dutch community in Chicago, and De Bey’s civic and professional leadership went beyond the boundaries of her ethnic community.

Active with the Women’s Trade Union League, she served on the Chicago Board of Education in 1905… Cornelia De Bey and Kate Starr Kellogg lived together, the former a physician and prominent reformer, the latter an educator and administrator in the Chicago public schools…

Cornelia graduated from the Cook County Normal School in 1889, and with the help of family friend John Meyers (Cornelia’s father enabled Meyers to enter first business and then politics), a member of the Illinois State Legislature, she pushed through a bill to endorse Kindergartens, and she then went on to graduate from the Hahnemannian Medical College in Chicago in 1895 (her brother was a doctor and the other brother was a pharmacist).

Cornelia set up her practice in Chicago and became associated with the Hull House Settlement and worked with Jane Addams. Her practice was mainly amongst the poor as she worked for married women’s property rights and became active in school and local politics. Cornelia (and Jane Addams) became members of the Chicago Board of Education and a close friend of Margaret Haley and adopted the new dress reform movement.

Though passionate about education, Cornelia was also passionate about the Suffrage movement, which brought her into contact with Anna Howard Shaw and the National Woman Suffrage Association, and Cornelia was also a member of the Chicago Peace Association. Cornelia was also an activist against the death penalty.

Cornelia supported Theodore Roosevelt in the belief that he would support votes for women.

Alice Stone Blackwell said of Cornelia ”I have on my table one little picture representing Cornelia de Bey, ‘the most active brain in Chicago…‘”