Social worker and progressive reformer Josephine Shaw Lowell worked to introduce scientific methods of studying poverty. She established numerous charitable organizations in New York, including the New York Consumers' League that worked to improve the life of the tens of thousands of working women in the city. She and her supporters studied the conditions women faced and published their findings, a method that encouraged consumers to only patronize businesses that treated their workers fairly.
Born Josephine Shaw in Massachusetts, young Josephine soon moved to Staten Island with her family. She married Charles Russell Lowe in 1863 but lost her husband during the Civil War. Josephine returned to New York and became active in the Anti-Imperialist League, an organization that opposed the colonization of the Philippines and other foreign lands. Prior to establishing the New York Consumers' League, Josephine Shaw Lowell established several charitable organizations in the city as well as the Women's Municipal League. She was appointed by Governor Samuel Tilden to the New York State Board of Charities in 1876, becoming the first female member of the organization.