Address to the Social Service League, January 30, 1923 (summary)




Under the auspices of the Social Service League, Miss Jane Addams of America addressed a meeting in the Servants of India Society's Hall, Bombay, on Tuesday afternoon on the subject of social work in the United States of America. Mr. K. Natarajan occupied the chair.

Introducing the lecturer, Mr. Natarajan said Miss Addams was one of the most notable figures in the world among the leaders devoted to the uplift and emancipation of women.

Miss Addams gave a history of social service work as carried on in the United States and of the many forms of charitable effort. She said from the beginning of the foundation of the Republic 150 years ago they had had a movement for social work among children but about 30 years ago, both in England and in America, there arose a new effort among social workers for extending their work among the working people. This needed a systematic study of the conditions in which the poor working people lived. This led to the establishment of what were called "settlements" where a number of young men just out of the universities grouped themselves together and lived and mixed themselves freely with the working men and devoted a number of years to the study of their social problems and the measures for alleviating their sufferings. For an illustration, the lecturer took the social work done in Chicago, where, she said, people from all parts of Europe were attracted [as] factory workers. The social workers studied the particular needs of these varied races of people and made provisions for open spaces for recreation, etc., for treating the sick and the suffering and for relieving the housing problem. After the establishment of such social work organizations, they were handed over to municipalities for maintenance as their value became known and appreciated.

At the end of her lecture Miss Addams said that she would be glad to answer any questions to elicit information about the different forms of social work in America.

In reply to a question, Miss Addams said the object of her visit to India and the East was merely one of recreation combined with a desire to see the social work carried on in Asia. She said she was also interested in the cause of peace.


She next described the organization known as the University of Philanthropy which turned out graduates in economics, sociology, clinics, etc. They afterwards did social work in their respective fields and reported their experiences to the University.

In reply to a question as to whether a certain amount of difficulty was not experienced by social [organizations] owing to the reluctance of the people to accept financial help from the capitalist classes, Miss Addams said it was true that a certain amount of prejudice prevailed among the working people in this regard. The social workers accepted moderate salaries but on account of such payments they did not necessarily side with the capitalists who paid their salaries. It took a lot of courage on the part of the social workers to carry on their work and face the suspicions of the work people and they always tried to ensure a certain standard of justice and fair dealing between the capitalists and the work people.

Questioned as to how the law of prohibition had affected social workers in America, the lecturer said when prohibition was first put into law it made a very great deal of difference. In Chicago about a third of the city prison was closed because there were no prisoners to fill it with. A large ward in the hospital, where cases of accidents arising out of drunkenness were brought, was closed. Factory workers brought home larger sums of money. But while these ideal conditions still prevailed in villages and small towns, in large cities where there was a constant influx of European people a great deal of illicit drink traffic prevailed and it was difficult to strictly enforce the law. But on the whole there was no doubt that conditions had improved owing to prohibition. Of course a certain class of people of middle age who had had their drink all their lives would have it still but prohibition would undoubtedly benefit the younger generation.

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