Born in Tennessee in 1890, Florence Stewart Kerr and family moved to Iowa when she was an infant. She grew up in Marshalltown and attended Grinnell College from 1908-1912 where she formed a lifelong friendship with Harry Hopkins. Florence married Robert Y. Kerr in 1915; she taught English at the College from 1921-26 and 1931-32.
In 1930 she was named a member of the Iowa Unemployment Relief Council; in 1935 Hopkins recommended her as one of five regional directors of the Division of Women's and Professional Projects within the Works Progress Administration (alternately called the Work Projects Administration). She was promoted to Assistant Administrator of the WPA and Director of the Women's and Professional Projects in 1938 and worked in Washington, D.C. until the WPA ended in 1943.
She became director of the war public services of the Federal Works Agency and later served as an executive with Northwest Airlines. She retired in the mid 1950s and lived in D.C. until her death in 1975.
Robert Y. Kerr, a native of Newton, Iowa, served on the editorial staff of The American Lumberman and as Executive Secretary of Grinnell College.