Big Brother and Big Sister Federation
Introduction: Early in the twentieth century, men in both Cincinnati, OH and New York City began to serve as so-called volunteer big brothers, or friends and advisers to fatherless boys. In 1902, Ernest Coulter, court clerk, helps organize the first New York Children’s Court; Ladies of Charity, later Catholic Big Sisters of New York, starts to befriend girls who come before the New York Children’s Court. In 1903, businessman Irvin F. Westheimer befriends a young boy in Cincinnati, OH; these become the seeds for the start of Big Brothers in Cincinnati.
In 1909, Ernest K. Coulter, the clerk of the juvenile court in New York City, established the first big brother organization, the Big Brother Movement, Inc. of New York. Within a few years, local groups patterned after the NYC organization were organized in cities across the U.S., including organizations for big sisters.
In 1917 a national conference was held in Grand Rapids, MI and the Big Brother and Big Sister Federation was established. Its purpose was to promote the development of new agencies, to provide advice to existing organizations and to sponsor conferences, training courses and seminars for workers and interested laymen. Big Sisters work geared to African-Americans was underway in Louisville, KY and Brooklyn, NY; Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., becomes treasurer of BB/BSF; first motion picture based on a Big and Little Brother relationship released by Paramount Pictures. By the late 1920s, the organization was helping over ten thousand children through nearly nine hundred agencies. Its annual conferences attracted widespread attendance and focused largely on juvenile delinquency issues.
Big Brother and Big Sister Federation Time Line
1917: The first national conference of Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations is held in Grand Rapids, MI.
1923: Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., becomes treasurer of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation;First motion picture based on a Big and Little Brother relationship is released by Paramount Pictures.
1925: President Calvin Coolidge becomes patron of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation.
1930: Six hundred delegates attend a Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation meeting in New York City.
1934: President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt become patrons of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation.
1948: Norman Rockwell produces the sketch that becomes a symbol for the Big Brothers Association.
1951: The Big Brothers of the Year program begins, Associate Justice Tom Clark of the U.S. Supreme Court and J. Edgar Hoover are named.
1958: Big Brothers Association chartered by Congress.
1970: Big Sisters International is incorporated.
1977: Big Sisters International and Big Brothers Association merge, forming Big Brothers Big Sisters of America with 357 agencies.
For more Information: See http://www.bbbs.org/history/