Woman of the Century/Ada Celeste Sweet
SWEET, Miss Ada Celeste, pension agent, born in Stockbridge, Wis., 23d February, 1853. When the Civil War began, her father, Benjamin J. Sweet, a successful lawyer and State Senator, entered the Union army as Major of the Sixth Wisconsin Infantry. Afterwards, as Colonel of the Twenty-first Infantry, he was wounded at Perryville. Left in broken health, he took command of Camp Douglas in Chicago, Ill., as Colonel of the Eighth United States Veteran Reserve Corps. Ada spent her summers in Wisconsin and her winters in a convent school in Chicago. After the war. General Sweet settled on a farm twenty miles from Chicago and opened a law office in the city. ADA CELESTE SWEET. Ada, the oldest of the four children, aided her father in his business. She was carefully educated and soon developed marked business talents. In 1868 General Sweet received from President Grant the appointment as pension agent in Chicago. Ada entered the office, learned the details of the business, and carried on the work for years. In 1872 General Sweet was made first deputy commissioner of internal revenue, and moved to Washington, D. C. Ada accompanied him as his private secretary. He died on New Year's Day, 1874, and his estate was too small to provide for his family. President Grant then appointed Miss Sweet United States agent for paying pensions in Chicago, the first position as disbursing officer ever given to a woman by the government of the United States. The Chicago agency contained six-thousand names of northern Illinois pensioners on its roll, and the disbursements amounted to over one-million dollars yearly. She made the office independent of politics and appointed women as assistants. In 1877 President Hayes made all Illinois pensions payable in Chicago, and her office disbursed over six-million dollars yearly. She chose her own clerks and trained them for her work. She did so well that, in spite of pressure brought to secure the appointment of a man, she was reappointed in 1878 by President Hayes, and in 1882 by President Arthur. In 1885 the Democratic commissioner of pensions asked her to resign, but she appealed to President Cleveland, and he left her in the office until September, 1885, when she resigned, to take a business position in New York City. In 1886 she visited Europe. Returning to Chicago, she became the literary editor of the Chicago "Tribune." In 1888 she opened a United States claims office in Chicago, and she has done a large business in securing pensions for soldiers or their families. She is now living in Chicago with her brother, he and one sister, who lives in San Francisco, Cal., being the only surviving members of her family. She is interested in all the work of women, a member of the Chicago Woman's Club, and president of the Municipal Order League of Chicago. In October, 1890, she gave the first police ambulance to the city, having raised money among her friends to build and equip it, and thus originated the present system in Chicago of caring for those who are injured or fall ill in public places.