Julia Lathrop, the daughter of William Lathrop, was born in Rockford, Illinois on 29th June, 1858. Julia's father had helped establish the Republican Party and served in the state legislature (1856-57) and Congress (1877-79).
In 1890 Lathrop moved to Chicago where she joined Jane Addams, Ellen Gates Starr, Alzina Stevens, Edith Abbott, Grace Abbott, Florence Kelley, Mary McDowell, Alice Hamilton, Sophonisba Breckinridge and other social reformers at Hull House.
In 1893 Lathrop was appointed as the first ever woman member of the Illinois State Board of Charities. Over the next few years she helped introduce reforms such as the appointment of female doctors in state hospitals and the removal of the insane from the state workhouses.
The women at Hull House were active in the campaign to persuade Congress to pass legislation to protect children. In 1912 President William Taft appointed Lathrop as the first head of the newly created Children's Bureau. Over the next nine years Lathrop directed research into child labour, infant mortality, mother mortality, juvenile delinquency, mothers' pensions and illegitimacy.
In 1925 Lathrop was appointed to the Child Welfare Committee established by the League of Nations. Julia Lathrop died in Rockford on 15th April, 1932.