MacLean, Annie Marion

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MacLEAN, Annie Marion

Born Nova Scotia, Canada; died May 1934, Pasadena, California

Daughter of Reverend John and Christina MacLean

Annie Marion MacLean studied sociology at Acadia College, Nova Scotia, before immigrating to the University of Chicago, where she earned a Ph.D. MacLean's dissertation, "The Acadian Element in the Population of Nova Scotia," was completed in 1900. MacLean taught at Adelphi College from 1906 to 1916 and at the National Training School of the YWCA from 1903 to 1916. She was associated with the University of Chicago from 1903 to 1934 as an extension assistant professor of sociology in what was then termed the Home Study Department. MacLean's interests are reflected in the titles of the courses she taught: Rural Life, Introduction to Social Problems of Industry, Social Technology, Modern Immigration, and History of the Social Reform Movement.

As a sociologist, MacLean was keenly interested in social reforms aimed at improving the condition of women in industry and furthering their organizational efforts. Trade unions represented to her "a rational theory of industrial betterment." Her immersion into the "social world" of others was of short term and great variety: hop picker; department store clerk (reflecting her interest in the newly formed Consumers' League of Illinois, an organization designed to use the power of consumers to remedy industrial ills); striker; model factory worker; and finally, sweat-shop worker. Her interest in the latter was aroused while serving as a member of New York Governor Roosevelt's Tenement House Commission.

MacLean's writing style is straightforward, both descriptive and analytical, and eminently readable. A sense of humor keeps her works from taking on a preaching tone. Her primary interests are reflected in two books: Wage Earning Women (1910) and Women Workers and Society (1916). The former involved MacLean as a director of a massive effort sponsored by the national board of the YWCA to study typical conditions of representative industries employing women. About 400 establishments in more than a score of cities were studied. These included textile, clothing, and printing work in New York and New England; meat packing in Nebraska; hop picking in Oregon; and fruit picking and drying in California.

Wage Earning Women advocated regular investigations by both public and private agencies. MacLean alludes to the work of private agencies such as the Consumers' League; additionally, she points to the role of social settlement leaders Jane Addams and Mary McDowell in Chicago and Lillian Wald and Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch in New York, urging a careful study of working conditions. Among the other concerns of the book were improved and uniform legislation among the states, including "protective" legislation for women and children; employer's welfare work; trade unions; and a variety of residential clubs and hotels for working women, in which the YWCA was a pioneer. MacLean applauds the Eleanor Clubs of Chicago, which served as neighborhood centers as well as providing living facilities.

MacLean's interest in immigration culminated in the publication of Modern Immigration (1925), which reflects the concerns of that era over the desirability of assimilation and Americanization. The implicit message is almost one of noblesse oblige : helping those less fortunate "lose" their own culture and adopt the "superior" American culture. The book also shows a concern with selecting immigrants so that a polyglot race (with structural weaknesses) would not emerge. MacLean tempers her stance somewhat by noting that this does not mean "an arrogant trampling under the feet of other strains."

As can be inferred, MacLean was part of the Chicago Hull House network. Like the other women sociology faculty members (Edith Abbott and McDowell), she occupied a marginal, peripheral role within the university. In spite of her reputation as a sociologist, MacLean was relegated to the Home Study Department instead of being part of the regular faculty. Her contributions to the sociology of women and work are major; her forthright and militant efforts to improve the conditions of working women are commendable.

Other Works:

Mary Ann's Malady (1913). Cheero (1918). Some Problems of Reconstruction (1921). Our Neighbors (1922). This Way Lies Happiness (1923).


American Journal of Sociology (1921, 1934). Journal of the History of Sociology (1978).


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MacLean, Annie Marion

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