Chattanooga’s Florence Crittenton Home for Women

When you visit Adult & Teen Challenge MidSouth (ATCM) at 1108 W. 33rd Street, you’re greeted by a stately old home at the front of the property with many stories to tell. This home is one of five that served as a respite for young women every year beginning in the late 1890’s until it was sold to ATCM in 1987, and it is one of 73 Florence Crittenton Homes across the U.S.

Before the history is lost, we thought we might publish the home’s history for the over 8,000 young women and 8,000 babies served here.

In 1877, the Ladies Aid Society of Centenary Methodist church saw poor troubled women committing crimes and prostituting themselves and wished to help them. Charles Lewis donated a cottage on Boyce Street to the Society to provide housing for unmarried pregnant women.

In 1882, following the death of his four-year old daughter, Florence Crittenton, to scarlet fever, Charles N. Crittenton founded Florence Crittenton Homes. He started the Florence Night Mission in New York, a safe haven for “lost and fallen” women.

From there, the Florence Crittenton Mission was formed and Charles Crittenton traveled across the country in a railroad car donating $500 to each town willing to start a Home for young women and children in need. Charles participated in founding 73 home across the U.S. and several more in China and Japan before his passing in 1909 at the age of 73.

In 1890, the Centenary Women’s Mission Home Board moved the program to a cottage on Cypress Street. Eight years later, Charles Crittenton visited Chattanooga and donated $650 toward the purchase and renovation of a building at 625 East Fifth Street, and the home became part of the National Florence Crittenton Serve chain of residences for unmarried, pregnant women. Eighteen years later, the home burned down.

It was in 1918, that the home moved to an eight acre farm in St. Elmo known as the Johnson farm. The Florence Crittenton Home for women used the farmhouse at the back of the property until 1933 when a new building was erected at a cost of $27,000. Since this time and for more than a century, Chattanooga’s Florence Crittenton Home provided shelter, counseling, medical assistance, support and, upon request, adoption services for hundreds of women.

In 1938, the National Conference of the Florence Crittenton Society was held in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Many events occurring during the four-day conference are chronicled enthusiastically, including “a drive over Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain with a visit to the famous Rock City on the top of the mountain.”

Every year, members of Chattanooga’s Quota club gave a Christmas party for the Crittenton residents. This guest book records all those attending the parties from 1939-1951.

Throughout their pregnancies, the residents lived “behind the hedge,” notes Mrs. Hastings. Until the 1960’s, all of their babies were delivered at the home by visiting doctors. Later, the residents went to Erlanger Hospital for their babies’ birth; the old delivery room at Crittenton then became the examining room for pre-natal care. Each girl preserved her anonymity on these trips to the hospital by wearing dark glasses and a wig and/or scarf. If she chose, she could select a ring for the occasion from the “wedding ring box” kept for that purpose.

July 1954, the Red Feather Agency, a local charitable organization, began a campaign to add an addition to the home. During that year, the home furnished accommodations up to 100 individuals in need of care with a 20-bed capacity, and often turned women away. The addition would add eight beds to the home to take care of an additional 40 women annually.

Rooms were added to the side and rear of the building. Katharine Hasting’s office was located in the side addition. “Unfortunately, the addition had no proper foundation,” observes Katharine Darr Hastings, its director from 1968-1975, “so the addition kept separating from the building and sinking into the ground.”

In 1976, the home’s name was changed to Hastings House, honoring Mrs. Hastings.

With the 1973 landmark decision on Roe vs Wade and changing views on pregnancies out of wedlock, the need for the Home dwindled. In 1987, the Hastings House was sold to Adult & Teen Challenge MidSouth. The faith-based recovery program had outgrown their property at Willow and Bailey.

Thank you to friends at Partnership for Families, Children and Adults. Over the years, the Home changed names many times. Today, it is Partnership for Families, Children and Adults!

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