HISTORY

Born in 1888, Edith Hilles Dewees was a remarkable woman - unconventional, an activist - a 19th century woman taking a leadership role in the advancement of social issues and the freedom of women.

A Vassar graduate, class of 1914, Edith Hilles went to work, first in Philadelphia and then to New York with the state labor department - a daring action for an affluent lady at that time. She held various other jobs, yet somehow managed to earn an Agriculture degree from Pennsylvania State University. Like Kathryn Hepburn, thirteen years her junior, she wore trousers long before they were fashionable for women. In 1929, still single, she adopted two newborn infants, a boy and a girl.

In 1931 Edith Hilles married Lovett Dewees, a widowed doctor with a 12-year-old son. Born into the Episcopalian faith, she converted to the faith of her husband and became a Quaker. Showing compassion for others in need, the couple led active lives.

At their home, a farm in Chester County, they housed people who were trapped in difficult circumstances: a conscientious objector and his wife; a Jewish family who could not find housing in the area because of prejudice; a college friend with two children who was getting a divorce and a student couple with no money.

During World War II, the pair helped bring children to the United States to avoid the bombing of London, England. Two of these children stayed with the Dewees family for five years, until the war ended.

Edith Hilles Dewees was active in many charitable ventures including the American Friends Service Committee, Sleighton Farms School for delinquent girls, and the School in Rose Valley which she helped found.

Edith Hilles Dewees died in 1982 at age 94. In her will, to honor her devoted father, she created the Allen Hilles Fund, a private foundation that provides support in the areas of education, women's issues, economic development in disadvantaged communities and activities of the Religious Society of Friends. The Fund focuses on the city of Philadelphia.