March is Women’s History Month. This month honors and celebrates the contributions of women throughout American history.
Spence-Chapin is proud to highlight the stories of the many women that have shaped and created the Spence-Chapin family—from our founders, to our international partners, to the many incredible women connected through adoption.
Women have paved the way for modern adoption and Spence-Chapin is indebted to these women. In honor of Women’s History Month, we are sharing our historic timeline of the inspiring women of Spence-Chapin. These women have succeeded in creating thousands of families over the last century.
American educator, women’s and civil rights advocate, adoption pioneer, civic leader, and founder of the Spence School for girls in 1892.
In January 1909, the White House Conference on Dependent Children adopted fourteen resolutions all aimed at replacing the institutional method of childcare with home care. The next month Clara Spence personally adopted a one-year-old girl from the Children’s Aid Society. The judge had no objection to her application even though she was a single parent nearing the age of fifty. Six years later in 1915, Clara Spence adopted a little boy. Her partner, Charlotte Baker, adopted a girl in 1911 and a boy in 1914, completing what was one of the first single-sex adoption families.
In 1921, Clara Spence brought thirteen children from Great Britain to the United States to be adopted into American families, anticipating what has today become a vast network of international adoption. By her willingness to defy public opinion and risk social ostracism, Clara Spence not only managed to make adoption an accepted practice, but one that became the method of choice for hundreds of families. It was largely because of her work and influence that New York became recognized as a leader in child welfare and adoption in particular.
Alice Chapin established the Alice Chapin nursery in 1911 after one year of looking after undernourished and neglected children in their home. Mrs. Chapin was president of the nursery for 20 years.
The following year the nursery joined with the Spence Alumni Society to form the Spence‐Chapin Adoption Service. Its first home being at 304 East 33d Street.
Former Director of Social Work at Harlem Hospital
Gladys Randolph brought the issue of abandoned babies at Harlem hospital to the attention of Spence-Chapin. There were 18 babies who were about to reach their second birthdays in the hospital.
Gladys challenged the then-popular notion that African-American families were not interested in adoption. As a result, Spence-Chapin started a program in 1946 to respond to the crisis.
Rachel Robinson, wife of famous baseball player Jackie Robinson, joined the Spence-Chapin Board of Directors in 1953.
She was an advocate in connecting children with African American adoptive families.
Former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt was the featured speaker at a Spence-Chapin conference in 1954, saying, “No matter what the color of their skin, all our children must be looked at as the future rich heritage of the country.”
Marian Anderson was a famous American contralto singer. She performed a wide range of music, from opera to spirituals. She was the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera.
Marian helped Spence-Chapin recruit African-American adoptive families.
Jane Edwards served as Executive Director of Spence-Chapin. She began working at Spence-Chapin in 1956. Mrs. Edwards received her Masters in Social Work in 1947 and was employed at Spence-Chapin from March 1, 1956 to January 12, 1990, serving as the Executive Director from 1968-1990. Under Edwards’ leadership, she expanded Spence-Chapin’s African American adoption program, international adoption programs, and had five city contracts for programs such as adoption, mental health and preventive services, and foster care; serving more than 1,000 people a month.
Linda Alexandre serves as the Chief Program Officer at Spence-Chapin. Linda oversees day to day operations and manages senior program staff for Spence-Chapin’s Domestic, International, and Special Needs Adoption Programs. In her over twenty-year career at Spence-Chapin, Linda’s leadership skills and management style have consistently strengthened Spence-Chapin’s programs and ensured that they meet the needs of the multitude of people we serve, including birth parents, adoptive parents, volunteers, and domestic and international partners.
Linda received a bachelor’s degree from Lehman College, and a master’s degree in Social Work from Fordham University.
As Spence-Chapin’s current Chief Executive Officer, Kate Trambitskaya oversees the administration, programs, and strategic plan of Spence-Chapin. Kate began working at Spence-Chapin in 2012, most recently serving as Executive Vice President, General Counsel for the organization. Before coming to Spence-Chapin, Kate was a Senior Team Leader/Attorney for the Family Court Legal Services, Administration for Children’s Services in Brooklyn for six years, representing the Commissioner of Social Services in court and various judicial proceedings. Kate is a Posse Foundation alumna, a fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, a member of New York Attorneys for Adoption & Family Formation (NYAAFF), and board member of the National Council For Adoption (NCFA).
Kate received a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University and a JD from St. John’s University School of Law.
“Throughout our Nation’s history, American women have led movements for social and economic justice, made groundbreaking scientific discoveries, enriched our culture with stunning works of art and literature, and charted bold directions in our foreign policy.”
Jacqui adopted a beautiful baby girl named Carina through Spence-Chapin in August 2018. When I asked Jacqui why she chose to work with Spence-Chapin, she said that she was first introduced to Spence-Chapin as a birth parent seeking counseling and support many years ago.
In honor of International Women’s Day, the Spence-Chapin team has been meditating over the powerful words of remarkable women who have offered wisdom and motivation through their voices and personal life stories.
Spence-Chapin social workers stay in contact with many of our Birth Parents even after they have placed their child for adoption or decided to parent.
Martha Ulman granddaughter of the late Clara Spence is interviewed by Antoinette Cockerham, Spence-Chapin’s COO.