Maude and Alexander Hadden

Maude Miner Hadden

Maude Hadden

Born the in western Massachusetts, the youngest child in a loving family, Maude Miner grew up with reverence for God, education, and the great outdoors. One of her earliest memories was of wandering from her home and making her way to the schoolhouse where her siblings matriculated. She later recalled of the adventure:

That experience awakened me into a conscious independent being. Not a thirst for knowledge, but a premature curiosity to see something beyond the confines of the familiar hilltop—a budding spirit of adventure—led me to take that solitary excursion at so tender an age. It was the first hint of the driving force that was to become the essential part of me, and, throughout my life, has led me to unchartered fields, into new lands, and has prompted me to take a definite interest in other people.

Maude Hadden with Thomas Watson, founder of IBM (left) and Charles Kettering, founder of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (right)

As a member of the Smith College class of 1901, Maude enjoyed studying a wide variety of subject areas, especially Greek, math, sociology, and philosophy. She went on to become a mathematics and history professor at Hood College in Maryland. It was there, through her work with young women in a weekly bible study, that Maude first realized the need for what would become her trailblazing career in social work.

After four years teaching at Hood, Maude enrolled in graduate classes at Columbia University. To help cover her expenses, she coordinated a study of girls paroled from two industrial schools in New York state. This would become basis for her Master of Arts thesis. During this time, the first civil service examination for probation officers in New York City was announced. Maude earned the highest grade on the exam and was sworn in as a probation officer. She later wrote, “Confident of success, I started on a new life adventure. The career, of which I had dreamed, and for which I had sacrificed everything else that had been offered to me, was becoming a reality at last.”

Waverly House

Maude Hadden with (from left) Dwayne Orton, Education Director at IBM, Norman Angell, 1933 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and Charles Collingwood, CBS News journalist

As a night court probation officer Maude quickly saw the need for help, not punishment, for many young women. She dreamed of a temporary home where the individual needs of each girl could be assessed and a plan could be made for helping them. Maude was determined to once again make her dream a reality, and on February 1, 1908, Waverly House was opened. It was a haven for runaways from all over the country, witnesses who needed supervision while complaints were pending, and occasionally for girls charged with minor crimes such as truancy.

Waverly House was a “veritable laboratory” were various methods of addressing a variety of problems, physical, mental, and educational, were tested and refined. Thousands of young women were given shelter, guidance, and friendship through Waverly House.

Girls’ Service League

In 1908, Maude organize the Association which later adopted the name of Girls’ Service League. She wrote about the league, “Its purpose was to help needy girls through intensive personal contact and by bringing them together as a group into a homelike atmosphere. It proved to be a distinct aid in the prevention of delinquency among those it touched.”

After the success of Girls’ Service League in Manhattan, additional Leagues were organized in Yorkville, Gramercy, Chelsea, and other districts of New York City, all with the mission of helping and protecting girls who needed aid.

From Maude Hadden’s 1968 book, A Quest for Peace: Personal and Political:

I had made some very successful contacts with girls, sincerely studying the factors responsible for their difficulties and grasping an understanding of their needs. Mental and physical examinations had been obtained for them. Many girls were placed in suitable paying positions. Some were returned to their parents or relatives in other cities. As far as it was humanly possible, I attempted to follow up through personal visits and personal correspondence, offering my friendship and understanding.


Excerpt from a New York City newspaper article: Girls’ Service League Will Entertain 1000 Jobless to Be Guests at Christmas Eve Theatre Party

More than 1000 girls, most of them unemployed, will be the guests at a Christmas Eve party to be given at the Ritz Theater on Saturday by the Girls’ Service League of America, it was announced yesterday. Mrs. Alexander M. Hadden is president of the League.

“More than 16,744 girls from 15 to 21-years-old who entered the Girls’ Service League this year were in desperate need,” she said. It is for these girls that the party is being given, although no girl of 18 years or thereabouts seeking friendliness will be turned away as long as tickets hold out.”

Alexander Hadden

Alexander and Maude Hadden in Palm Beach, Florida

Maude Hadden wrote of her beloved husband, Alexander, “If an astrologer had prepared a horoscope for Alexander Mactier Hadden at the time of his birth, his family would have smiled dubiously if the prediction had been that he was to become one of America’s most influential and respected volunteer social workers during his life.”

Alexander’s grandfather, David Hadden, was a successful importer. His father then joined the business, and it was expected that Alexander and his brother, John, would, as well.

Maude wrote of Alexander’s childhood and early adulthood:

The years in Manhattan passed quickly and Alexander underwent experiences quite similar to those of all of the other boys in the changing age groups. He suffered the same bumps and bruises and had the same attitude toward soap and water. He collected his quota of bugs and creepy things. But he showed an extra sense of responsibility and tenderness towards his pets. In looking back, those who knew him might have guessed rightly as to the beginning of his calling in life. The flashes of extra tenderness to animals, and his sympathy for less fortunate playmates became noticeable.

Early in life, Alexander expressed the desire to attend Columbia University. To his father, who had met with great success without a college education, such an expensive course seemed unnecessary. He felt that Alexander could learn the business while on the job. But Alexander was undeterred, doing without luxuries to save enough from his allowance for his tuition as a day student. Alexander’s father finally saw that his son did not care to fall heir to a life and work someone else had fashioned for him. Alexander was an individual, ready to prepare himself for a vastly different type of endeavor.

After college, Alexander began a life dedicated to service. Some of Alexander’s most important work happened on Sunday afternoons when he went to The Tombs to help young prisoners. Sunday evenings, he often served at The McAuley Water Street Mission, where he worked with alcoholics. In his work with men at the Tombs Prison, Alexander found deep satisfaction. During that same time, he made weekly trips to Sing Sing Prison with similar dedication and purpose. When the State Prison Commission was appointed by the Governor, Alexander was made a member of the executive committee to work out a plan to improve New York’s prisons.

Alexander was also a recurring member of the Grand Jury. He was frequently appointed foreman of the 23 members and presided over their deliberations. When leaks from the Grand Jury room led to cases being tried in the newspapers, Alexander organized the Grand Jurors Association. As its first president, he had a bill drafted which would make it an offense for the District Attorney’s office to reveal Grand Jury proceedings.

Maude wrote of her husband:

Alexander’s activities seemed to be without limits. They took him among the highest social groups—and also into the environs of the lowest depths of iniquity. His name was in the newspapers repeatedly. He had the admiration of every strata of human society. As he walked along the busy streets of New York City, it was not at all unusual for him to stop and chat with a debutante, and, a few steps farther, to meet a man whose release from prison he helped to obtain. He would stop to talk with the ex-convict about his new contacts and his work. At the corner, he might be heard greeting some elderly dowager passing in her motor car. A moment later, he might be seen in serious conversation with one of the city’s most important businessmen and financiers. Although he went his way alone, it seemed that everyone admired him and his company. He was indeed a man of rare ability and friendliness.

Following the exchange of our marriage vows in 1924, and henceforth, from that day until we were parted by Alexander’s death in 1942, ours was an ideal blending of souls and ideals in life.

“I would never have married anyone else but you,” Alexander told me over and over again during our happy years together. Our interest in those less fortunate had first brought us together. A deep spiritual bond continued to make life rich and beautiful. Ours was a perfect comradeship, destined to bear rich rewards in world-wide influence in the years granted us together. Many a time I repeated to him the words he had said to me: “I would never have married anyone but you—Alexander.”

IWA – Institute of World Affairs

From Maude Hadden’s 1968 book, A Quest for Peace: Personal and Political:

Maude Hadden, was a founder and President of the Institute of World Affairs

Long before the League of Nations and the International Labor Office focused the spotlight on Switzerland, that tiny European country had become the intellectual bourne of students and scholars the world over. By 1924, it was estimated that the annual student population had arisen to several thousand, including students representing four score and more nationalities. When and where there had been oppression, misunderstanding, a closing of doors to learning, students had packed their belongings and gone to Switzerland to find a political atmosphere that was clear and pure.

When we arrived in Geneva, the annual student population was estimated to be close to five thousand. It represented more than fifty nationalities. They came from all ranks of human endeavor. Some came from places of light; some came from pockets of darkness. Some had financial means; others had little money with which to support themselves. Some had friends to greet them; others were alone. We felt that in their ranks there were potential leaders to help build a peaceful world community. It was clear to both of us that we were needed to help those who had appealed to us for information and advice.

We stopped in Geneva for only a brief visit. We had intended to move on to India. But we agreed to postpone our departure for an indefinite period. We already had met many lonely people in the long lines waiting for admission to the League Assembly and in the halls of Geneva University. We realized that they had no opportunities to meet distinguished statesmen whose advice would help influence the decisions they would be called upon to make in their chosen fields—diplomacy, education, journalism, public affairs, or business.

So we started the Students’ International Union, and the Institute of World Affairs, with a small group of 18 young men and women from six nations. When the membership increased to more than 200, we opened a spacious year-round center at 10 rue St. Leger, with a large library, salon, and tearoom, overlooking the University Park. Through those doors in a single day came hundreds of students seeking information, advice, help. In its rooms they sat in interested groups—talking, arguing, discussing interrelated problems of their lands and peoples. To its assemblies we invited statesmen, world leaders, political and economic experts who clarified the involved problems of international relations. The Union became a hospitable center where young men and women found welcome and extended it to others.

Palm Beach Roundtable founder, Maude Hadden, holding her book, “New Horizons,” before a portrait of her husband Alexander Hadden

Each year, 30-45 chosen college students from the United States and other countries were awarded scholarships for the two-month session in Geneva; a few others received additional stipends from their governments or universities. The Haddens believed that through seminars and study programs, conferences, community living, working and playing together, they could accomplish the end results they desired. Students pursued a comprehensive program of work, study, and play while experiencing international living, always in a quest for peace and understanding.

Palm Beach Roundtable

Founded by the Haddens in 1932, and still in existence today, the Palm Beach Round Table expanded the cultural life of the small Florida town by bringing in national and world-renowned luminaries and speakers.