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About Lydia Moss Bradley
Lydia Moss Bradley (July 31, 1816 – January 16, 1908) was a wealthy philanthropist notable for her philanthropic works in Illinois and the independent management of her wealth.
Was born and raised in Vevay, Indiana alongside the Ohio River and lived there with her family and husband until the age of 31 when she and her husband Tobias Bradley moved to Peoria, Illinois. She was an American philanthropist most noted for founding and endowing the Bradley Polytechnic Institute, now called Bradley University, in Peoria, Illinois. She was a pioneer of her day in many fields.
Early in life she demonstrated qualities of determination and ability. In May 1837 she married Tobias S. Bradley and moved to Peoria, where over the next three decades they prospered in real estate and banking. Despite his death in 1867 and the subsequent deaths of all their children, Bradley continued to work in business and pursued philanthropic interests, particularly in the areas of healthcare and education.
In 1875, Bradley became the first female member of a national bank board in the United States when she joined the Board of Directors of the First National Bank of Peoria (now part of Commerce Bank). Bradley was also the first American woman ever to draft a marriage contract (a "prenuptial agreement" in modern terms) to protect her assets.
Bradley gave land to the Society of St. Francis to build a hospital, now known as the OSF St. Francis Medical Center. In 1884, she built the Bradley Home for Aged Women to care for widowed and childless women, and funded the construction of the Universalist church in Peoria. Bradley also helped to establish the first park system in Illinois.
Bradley always considered Bradley University to be her fondest project, which she established to honor her husband Tobias and her six children, who all died at an early age. Originally organized as a four-year academy, Bradley University became a four-year college in 1920 and has continued to grow ever since.
Today the university enjoys the status of a fully accredited, independent institution that provides undergraduate and graduate education in engineering, business, communication, teacher education, nursing, physical therapy, fine arts, and the liberal arts and sciences.
In 1998, Lydia Moss Bradley was inducted posthumously into the National Women's Hall of Fame, joining the nation's most extraordinary women who have made enduring contributions to the arts, athletics, business, education, government, the humanities, philanthropy and science.
Born in Indiana, Lydia Moss Bradley grew up on the frontier, educated in a log home before becoming a wealthy businesswoman, an entrepreneur and the founder of what eventually would become Bradley University.
As a pioneer in so many fields, Bradley experienced both success and tragedy. She and her husband, Tobias Bradley, had six children, but all succumbed to various frontier diseases. In 1896, after becoming a millionaire through her various business activities, Bradley founded Bradley Polytechnic Institute in memory of her children. Originally organized as a four-year academy, Bradley University became a four-year college in 1920 and has continued to grow and distinguish itself ever since. Bradley University is today a fully accredited institution that supports undergraduate and graduate education in engineering, business, teacher education, nursing, physical therapy and the liberal arts. Inspired by this goal of creating an institute that taught boys and girls together and that combined practical and classical education, Bradley became a leader in land development and agriculture.
She was the first female member of an American national bank board in the United States when she joined the Board of Directors of Peoria√≠s First National Bank in 1875. She gave the Society of St. Francis the use of a large estate for a hospital, which is now the St. Francis Medical Center, one of the largest medical facilities in downstate Illinois. In 1884, she built the Bradley Home for Aged Women to care for widowed and childless women. She donated the land and pushed the city fathers of Peoria to establish a park system, the first in Illinois.