The Settlement-House Movement
The Settlement-House Movement
Settling in Urban Neighborhoods. During the 1880s and 1890s newly arrived immigrants faced a difficult struggle to earn a living wage, and cities offered little in the way of tangible aid. The urban neighborhoods in which these immigrants lived were filled with overcrowded tenements that lacked kitchens and bathrooms. Tenants drew water at a sink or pump in the hallway and used unsanitary privies in the basement. The settlement-house movement was established to help immigrants and the working poor. Settlement houses helped newcomers adapt to American life and customs by providing job placement and training, citizenship classes, legal aid, health services, child care, public kitchens, cultural programs, and classes on subjects such as nutrition and parenting. Springing up in most major cities, settlement houses were staffed mainly by educated middle-class white women who “settled” among the people they helped. The movement was not financed by government funds and depended solely on the labor of charitable women and men. The first settlement house in the United States was Jane Addams’s Hull-House, founded in 1889. Many others quickly followed. In 1893 Lillian Wald opened the Henry Street Settlement in New York City, and graduates of Wellesley College opened Denison House in Boston. By 1900 there were some one hundred settlement houses nationwide.
Activist Women. At the same time that new immigrants were flooding into American cities, more and more American colleges and universities were beginning to open their doors to women. In 1870 about eleven thousand women, mostly middle-class and white, were enrolled in institutions of higher education; by 1880 there were roughly forty thousand. Female graduates pioneered the field of social work. Many women in this field started their professional careers as staff members at settlement houses, forming professional networks within the movement. The movement also drew in lesseducated middle-class women who were concerned about the poor and felt a personal need to help them.
Becoming Political. The settlement-house movement was part widespread political impulse for national self-improvement, or progressivism. Whereas settlement-house workers at first believed that introducing art, music, and the humanities to the poor would uplift them from their degradation, the hardships of the economic crisis of 1893 and 1894 caused the workers to seek more practical ways to end suffering. For example, Hull-House joined with the Illinois Women’s Alliance, an organization of working-class and middle-class women, to convince the Illinois legislature to pass protective legislation for working women and children. Many women who were clients or staff members at settlement houses gained a political education there and went on to participate in the labor movement, civic-reform organizations, and national party politics.
Dolores Hayden, The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1981);
"The Settlement-House Movement." American Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/settlement-house-movement
"The Settlement-House Movement." American Eras. . Retrieved March 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/settlement-house-movement
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.