Document 7: Ben Lindsey to Cora Bussey Hillis, 11 January 1904, Cora Bussey Hillis Collection, Ms. 72, Box 1, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.


        This letter is Benjamin Barr Lindsey's reply to Hillis, accepting a speaking engagement in Iowa about the juvenile court law. Mr.Lindsey suggests a tactic to Hillis so that when she designs the talk she can get the greatest amount of people interested in the legislation.

        Judge Lindsey is arguably the most colorful figure in the juvenile court movement. Before Colorado had a separate court, Lindsey took time out of his week to hear cases involving children. He promoted the idea that the judge, who instills respect for the law and self-respect in the child, will have the best success in rehabilitating children. His method required the interest of a compassionate and knowledgeable judge.

        As his popularity grew, along with the popularity of the movement as a whole, Lindsey devoted much of his time to public speaking around the U.S., agitating for more juvenile courts in more states. This is precisely his purpose in corresponding with Hillis. As a state leader, Hillis depended on the national network of social reformers to help her cause. Judge Lindsey was a popular speaker on the cause of juvenile courts, so it is not surprising that the two were in communication and that Lindsey spoke in Des Moines to rally support for the law.

Judges’s Chambers

County Court,

Denver, Colo.

Ben B. Lindsey,


January 11, 1904

Mrs. Isaac Lea Hillis,

1629 Oakland Ave.,

Des Moines, Iowa.

My dear Mrs. Hillis:

Your kind letter received.  I think that I could be with you on the 7th of February if you could have an evening meeting at one of the churches.  I would be glad to speak on the subject which interests you, under the title of “The Child and the State”.  I think it very important to get a union meeting of the churches, as we found such meetings here did as much as any one thing to arouse public sentiment for our laws.

I feel certain that I could get transportation, and there would be no expense attached to the trip.  In case you arrange for the meeting I think it would be well to get the presence of the Governor and the Legislative Committee having charge of the bill.

Kindly let me hear from you.

Sincerely yours,

(Signed) Ben B. Lindsey


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