Julia Lathrop was born in Rockford in 1858. She attended Rockford Female Seminary now known as Rockford College, where she met Jane Adams. Lathrop was a pioneer in taking on social issues. Midway Village Museum Curator of Education Mark Herman says, "She had a lot to do with the care of mentally ill and new immigrants to the country and a lot of forgotten people that most people in American didn't care anything about. The poor, the oppressed, new immigrants, children that were working in factories. All these things were the causes that she took up. "
Lathrop made history on many fronts. In 1912, Lathrop was appointed to the Children's Bureau in the Department of Commerce and Labor becoming the first woman in charge of a federal government agency. Herman says, "It was definitely a man's world back then and she was ahead of her time."
The city of Rockford honors Lathrop's contributions in a number of ways. District 205's JuliaLathrop Elementary School and Rockford College's Lathrop Residence Hall to name a few. In 1922, Lathrop retired and moved back to Rockford to live with her sister. Lathrop helped establish the League of Women Voters of Illinois then later helped found the League of Women Voters of Winnebago County.