CII’s Founder: Minnie Barton

March 5, 2021
Rebecca Hutchinson

Minnie Barton was the first woman probation officer in Los Angeles and a fierce advocate of women and children in need. In 1906, she founded Children’s Institute – then called The Big Sister League.

Having moved to LA with her husband in 1905, she was struck by the obstacles facing indigent women who were getting left behind as the city grew. She started volunteering with LAPD, eventually becoming Chief Woman Probation and Parole Officer. She helped women who were discharged from jail to find work, sometimes keeping them in her own home until they had made other arrangements. She appealed to City Council to help; when denied, she founded The Big Sister League, expanding to help women who had come to the city looking for opportunity and had run out of money.

Ultimately, she also operated two homes, the Minnie Barton Home, a halfway in West Adams and the Bide-A-Sweet Home in Boyle Heights for unmarried pregnant women. Later in her life, she established a Valley camp for older women on her private property in what is now Sunland.

Minnie was highly sought-after as a speaker to women’s clubs and community groups. She had three sons of her own and died in 1946. The Big Sister League was renamed Children’s Institute when it moved to New Hampshire Ave in 1980.

A plaque in the Fern Dell picnic area in Griffith Park commemorates Minnie’s life of service. Read more about CII’s remarkable founder here and here.