Social Settlements in Illinois, January 25, 1906

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(By Jane Addams, Hull House, Chicago.)

As I understand it, I was asked to speak of the rise and growth of the social settlement movement in the State of Illinois. It makes one feel very old, to be considered an historic document, as it were! We have been accustomed so long to think of the social settlements as one of the pioneer forces, at least in the matter of their organization and social advancement, that it comes to me with something of a shock to realize that we are sixteen years old, and have for better or worse, made our history in the State.

Albert Shaw, who perhaps more than any other man in America has studied the historic growth and development of cities, said last year, at the St. Louis Exposition, that in a very real sense the European cities were as "new" as the American cities, that London and Paris, the cities on the Rhine, even St. Petersburg and Moscow, were new in that they had little to do with the medieval cities which lay back of them, and that they were faced by problems which were the result of the present industrial organization of cities. These new cities begun with the industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century. People are coming in from the country in all directions and living in great masses because they are being brought together in response to the newer methods of business, and newer methods of manufacturing. There is the same social problem all over the world, to be found in these cities of industrial origin. The social life of these cities was made more difficult from the fact that no one was looking out for their social organization. The politicians who were responsible for the charters, and for the administration of the laws, were of course more or less alert for changes in governmental machinery, but no one was doing the same thing for those institutions upon which the social life of the cities might develop. We know, of course, that Moscow has grown more rapidly during the last twenty-five years than New York, that Berlin has grown more rapidly than Chicago. We like to say that one reason affairs are so bad in American cities, as we have to admit they are, is because of their rapid growth, until we consider that other cities, all over the world, have grown quite as rapidly, and more rapidly, than American cities; and what is needed is groups of people who shall make it their effort to find out wherein the cities lack, publish the facts and make clear [page 2]


the situation in the more crowded quarters, where the lack of social organization is most keenly felt, that the citizens as a whole may see to it that needed changes are brought about.

Now, something of this sort, I take it, a settlement group undertakes to do. A group of people move into a quarter of the city which lacks many things, because the people are newly emigrated to this country, because they are bound down with necessity of earning their daily bread during the long hours of work, and have very little leisure or intelligence to give to the larger social needs, because they do not intend to live long in that part of the city, and are trying to save money in order to pull out and move somewhere else, and so take little interest in it -- for a dozen of reasons perhaps, certain quarters of the city fail to keep up with the rest, and they tend to pull back in the general progress. Now settlements move into such a quarter consciously, meaning to give to it their very best efforts in the way of investigation, and in the way of healing, and more than anything else perhaps hoping to uncover resources of civic power and ability in the neighboyhood itself.

When I speak of the first settlement in Illinois, I am obliged to speak of Hull House first because it was founded first, and, though it sounds somewhat conceited, I suppose chronology is very important with an historical association.

Hull House was opened in the fall of 1889. My friend, Miss Starr and myself discovered this old house on the corner of Polk and Halsted streets, in the 19th ward of Chicago, just about a mile from the post office building.

In every large city, right back of the business quarter, there is a tendency for people to gather who do casual work. The men who have intermittent work, in unloading cars, or on the docks, the men who do janitor service in the large downtown building, the men who carry packages, and the teamsters and deliverymen, all naturally wish to live near their business, simply because it is irregular, and therefore to get right back of the business quarter. So that every city, so far as I know, London, and the European cities, and the American cities, all have this quarter of poorer people adjacent to the business districts. In such a district property is held provisionally because people are sure business is coming in there, and so there is no need of making improvements, and as a result of this, paving, lighting, and sewerage do not advance, because it is considered a mere matter of a few years until the business interests occupy it. The whole situation from the civic standpoint is low. Such conditions prevail in a general way in the eastern half of the 19th ward, and the three other river wards which lie back of the business quarter of Chicago. There were only two of us to begin with. Gradually other people came, and now the settlement numbers thirty-four residents, with perhaps 100 people who come once a week for evening clubs or classes. The average attendance in a winter week is 7,000 people, counting those who belong to something, in the way of clubs, classes or social organizations. We have a group of buildings which have developed year after year, so [page 4] that we now have a little group of ten buildings, one containing the gymnasium and shops, another being the children's house, a third the woman's club building, and so forth.

I hardly know where we can attach ourselves to the history of the State, save perhaps in one or two investigations which may have aided legislation. After we had lived there a very little while we became much impressed with the evils of the sweatshop system. In 1889 there were no laws regulating the sweatshop industries, and practically no factory law at that time in the State of Illinois, although Illinois stood third among the states of the union in the point of its manufactured products. We still had a fiction that Illinois was solely an agricultural state. There was no child labor law, except one pertaining to children in mines, and another which had no method of enforcing a penalty, and no officers to administer it. We found children of all ages going to work whenever it suited the convenience of their parents, and many of them coming to grief from premature labor. We found many newly imported Italians and others working in sweatshops for phenomenally low wages, with no regulations as to the sanitary conditions under which they were working. We took up the agitation naturally along this line of the most glaring evils. Mrs. Kelley, who at that time lived in the house, received a commission from the State Bureau of Labor to make an investigation into the sweatshops. It ended in a committee being appointed from the Illinois Legislature in the winter of 1891 and 1892, to go into the subject more thoroughly, and their report finally resulted in the first real factory law of the State of Illinois, which went into operation July 1, 1893, and Mrs. Kelley was appointed the first factory inspector. Mrs. Stevens was her deputy and there were twelve inspectors. We can, I think, claim some credit for Hull House, though of course many other forces joined the agitation, for the passage of this first law which attempted to regulate the sweating system. The law has since been simplified into a full grown factory law, which compares favorably with that of older states.

We can also claim a little credit for bringing to light, from time to time, some of the facts connected with child labor. It seems so easy, when one does not know the children, to assume it is a good thing for the child to go to work early. In the country it is a good thing for the child perhaps, with a variety of employment and under healthy conditions. But in a city, with long hours and monotonous work, it is a very different matter. We have been able to trace the lives of children, year after year, and to follow out little histories which have proved very convincing, in the matter of child labor agitation. One year, in connection with the municipal lodging house in Chicago, we found many tramps who were worn out at the age of 17 or 18, because they had gone to work too early. I remember one boy, dying of tuberculosis, who seemed to have worked very steadily from the time he was nine. He had worked in [Pittsburgh], I am happy to say, not in Illinois, until he was thirteen. He then contracted typhoid fever and made a poor recovery, after which he "laid off steady work" and began to go around with shows, trying to get some of the pleasure denied [page 5] him in young boyhood. He could not endure this sort of life long, and he died with tuberculosis at the age of seventeen. That sort of history can be duplicated over and over again if one follows the children who take the strength which should go into growth and put it into premature labor. I instance these things to show the service a settlement may perform in the way of getting accurate information in regard to its neighbors.

John [Morley] says that social progress must always depend upon the initiative of groups of people who are touched with the unimproved condition of things and who make it their business to appeal to public sentiment as a whole, concerning that unimproved condition. When the public is aroused and understands the situation that it is a mere matter of time until conditions will improve.

We have done some investigation for the United States Labor Bureau, and for the United States Department of Agriculture. One such investigation was concerning the food of the Italians. We discovered Italians were eating foods not at all adapted to a cold climate, and were paying very high prices for imported foods; because no one had initiated them into the foods they could buy more cheaply, and which would suit their changed conditions better. I could name several other investigations, but this is but one side of settlement activity.

I have said little of the philanthropic, the educational or of the more strictly social side of the settlement for perhaps in a State meeting these broader issues are more germane.

Hull House was followed by a settlement established by the Northwestern University in 1891. Mr. Charles [Zueblin], whom many of you know as a university extension lecturer, was a resident there, and hoped to provide a center from which the students of the Northwestern might test their moral enthusiasms and sociological theories. It has grown rapidly, and although it lived for ten years in rented buildings, it is now housed in a very charming building of its own, built in 1901.

The Maxwell street settlement was established by a group of Jewish young men, largely graduates of Harvard, who had been interested in the settlements in the east. In 1903, the year in which there was a great influx of immigrants among the Russian Jews, they went into the midst of the Russian Jewish quarter. The Baron de Hirsch fund, part of which was spent in Chicago, seemed utterly inadequate to keep the immigrants from actual distress through their first months of experience in their adopted country. The settlement tried to assist them after that first period of adjustment, to induct them into the civic and industrial side of American life. It has had a very vigorous life and is about to finish a new house.

The Forward Movement is a settlement opened in 1903 in the ward next to Hull House. It grew out of the efforts of Dr. Gray and his brother. The former had a very large dispensary practice among the casual-labor men, who are now cared for largely in the municipal lodging house, but at that time they had no free lodging place except the police stations. I well recall the impressive funeral service on the death of Dr. Gray, which was attended by hundreds of these [page 6] men, who are not quite tramps, but are so unskilled they are only drawn into the industrial system at the times of the year when there is plenty of work to do, and they are sure to encounter a precarious living for some weeks at least out of every year. His brother, who is a Methodist minister, has developed the nucleus of Dr. Gray's work into the settlement called The Forward Movement. Among other activities they conduct large fresh air work every summer at Saugatuck Park on the other side of Lake Michigan. They are very hospitable and all the settlements send people there. It has developed into something between a summer school and a fresh air camp. The crippled children from the public schools are sent there every year.

The Chicago Commons was opened in 1894. I am sure many of you know of Dr. Graham Taylor, and of the fine work that is being carried on at Chicago Commons. He came to Chicago from the East, as a professor of sociology in the Chicago Theological Seminary. He insisted from the first that the young men under his charge must know the city, and become familiar with the poorer quarters, maintaining that it was more or less a disgrace to the protestant ministry that while many churches were established in the comfortable quarters, but little religious provision was made by the protestant churches for the poorest quarters of the city. He finally established a settlement where he could carry on more thoroughly his careful study of the industrial quarters and their needs. The Commons has been no mean factor, I think you will agree with me, in the civic life of Chicago. Dr. Taylor himself has been a very active member of the Municipal Voters' League. One election at least they were able to turn in favor of a good alderman, as against a man with a reputation for corruption; and they have had a definite effect not only upon the civc and political life of their neighborhood but of the city.

They have also for many years held "free floor discussions." As you know, in Chicago there are people of various social beliefs. To my mind nothing is better than to get a very radical socialist up against a very radical individualist or a very radical single taxer. The only way you can modify a man who is radical in his social opinions is to bring him in contact with some one who is very radical in another direction. The ordinary person who is not convinced of anything very much can never modify the radical, and real modification comes only through clash of opinion. Dr. Taylor I think would agree that his free floor discussions, and at one time we had something of the same sort at Hull House, are very valuable factors in the development and modification of social thought. Workingmen are accustomed to a sharp give and take. While their discussions are quite animated, they seldom have any real anomosity, although the listening public are often misled by the active discussions.

I am giving these social settlements, as you will note, in their chronological order. The University of Chicago established a settlement the same year as The Commons, in 1894, in the southwest corner of the Stock Yards District, at what they call "The back door of the stock yards." Their fortunes have been identified very largely with the large group of people who work in the stock yards, who are [page 7] composed at different times of varying immigrants. The Irish and German are being pushed out by the Italians and they in turn by the Lithuanians at present, and numbers of people from the southeastern part of Europe, with a large sprinkling of Greeks and Syrians. A group of people with Miss McDowell as head resident have lived there during ten years and have been closely identified with the fortunes of their neighbors. The Sociological Department of the University of Chicago has made some studies there. The Settlement has seen at least two groups of labor organizations rise and fall in the stock yards. They were able to give some very substantial service to the situation during the stock yards strike a year ago. A settlement does not take sides in a labor difficulty, neither does it desert its friends when they are in the midst of a labor trouble; and I think Miss McDowell had the respect and the good will of both sides in the very bitter controversy in the stock yards, from the fact that she was able to stand somewhat as a third party during that long and trying contest. As you will note, I am speaking of these settlements in a most superficial way, as there is not time to talk of them in detail, and I must asume that you know that all of them have a certain round of educational and social activities which I do not mention in each case.

The Eli Bates house was opened in 1895. It was a settlement on Goose Island in the northern part of the city. It was started years ago as an industrial school, by Mr. Eli Bates, and was known as the Elm Street Industrial School, but was re-organized as a settlement in 1895. They found, among other things, that the Irish boys of the neighborhood formed themselves into street gangs, through sheer lack of anything to interest them. By giving them industrial work and by making another side of life dramatic and interesting, they were performing a real civic service to that part of the city. They have lately received a gift of a beautiful boys' club building and the settlement is developing in many directions. When I touch on the boys' side of the work more than on another, it is not becaue the other activities are lacking.

Fellowship House was started by All Souls' Church the same year, gathering around a visiting nurse work, although it is now doing a general settlement work.

Neighborhood House was started by Mrs. Van Der Vaart in 1896, and has been from the start largely managed and financed by the immediate neighborhood. They are cooperating now in a very interesting way with the adjacent small parks. The south side park commissioners have opened twelve small parks which are equipped with park houses. These are supplied with baths, gymnasiums, lecture halls, and rooms for general social purposes. The settlements are most happy to turn their energies into cooperating with such an undertaking and to be identified with these larger public measures. No settlement wants to build up a big institution of its own, but is glad to turn over as much as possible to public bodies. At Hull House, for instance, we used to have public baths. When the Health Department opened a bath within a block of the house, we were only too happy to turn all our bathers over there. We used to have a reading [page 8] room in the house, until the public library authorities became convinced it was beneficial to have one in that neighborhood, when they opened a permanent one within two blocks of the house. For ten years we have managed a playground in connection with Hull House.

We have it still, but we hope next year the west park commissioners will open a play-ground, so we may turn the children over to them, and they will be able to do much more for them. This is an illustration of what the settlements try to do. We initiate such things as seem needful, but we hold our activities in the hollow of our hands, ready to give them up at a proper opportunity. It is quite the reverse of the old story about the superintendent of the orphan asylum, who prayed the Lord to send him many orphans the next year so he could build a new wing to his asylum. We want to keep ourselves adaptable and ready to turn over to someone else that they can do better than we. In the same spirit all of the settlements are doing more or less work with the evening schools, and hope to make them more social in spirit. It is better that a public building, like a school, become a center of a neighborhood, than a quasi-private building like a settlement.

Gad's Hill Center, near the McCormick works, was opened in 1898. It is interesting because it scatters its activities through different points in the vicinity, and in some instances is able to cooperate with social organizatios established by the manufacturing interests there. Gad's Hill has a beautiful country place on the north shore which was partly responsible, at least, for developing the tuberculosis camp in connection with the Visiting Nurse's Association. They too hold their activities ready to give them up, as you see.

Henry Booth House was established in 1898, and Association of the Young Men's Christian Association in 1899. They have each had a fine new building recently erected. Armitage Avenue, a little settlement opened in 1900, although small, has accomplished some very interesting work.

The newest settlement in Chicago is the Frederick Douglass Center, which is in the colored quarter. It is believed that a house will be useful where people interested in the social and ethical development of our colored brethren may meet with the leaders of the colored race, and discuss matters which pertain to both races, instead of emphasizing the things which divide one race from another, to unite upon those which are common to both. It is rational and careful and has the confidence of the colored people, as well as some of the most intelligent people of our own race. It was opened in 1904, but Mrs. Wooley, who is living there, has always been interested in the problem of the colored people. They have, on their walls, a statement from Booker Washington:

"I will permit no man to degrade me by making me to hate him"

which might be called the keynote of their effort.

There are six other establishments in Chicago which call themselves settlements, although some of them might better be classed a missions. I put in this classification, the Central Settlement, under the auspices of the Paulist Fathers, the Frances Willard Settlement, [page 9] which has a large day nursery and kindergarten, the [Francis] Clark Settlement, established by the Christian Endeavor Societies, the Marcy Home and Olivet House, both of which grew out of missions started some years ago, although at present they have incorporated many settlement activities.

There is a distinction I should like to make between a settlement and a mission, for we find that they are often confused. They are two distinct things, and harm is done to both movements, from this mental confusion. The first settlement in London was started by Canon Barnett, who is a Canon in the Church of England, and at that time was Vicar of St. Jude's, and although he founded Toynbee Hall, he has always kept the settlement distinct from the church. He says a mission is a group of people who are committed to one point of view, a religious point of view it commonly is, although a mission might be established for single tax, for temperence, or any other one thing upon which people are deeply convinced. They go into a neighborhood, and try to persuade the people who live there to believe as they believe, and to this end, in order to increase their acquaintance, they have classes, clubs, and many of the things a settlement has, but it is all secondary as it were, for they hope in the end that they may promote their propaganda. I am ready to say a mission is a much finer thing than a settlement. It has back of it the stirring history of the Christian church for 2,000 years, and some of the most wonderful names in religious history have been identified with missions. It is therefore a distinct thing with a history and purpose of its own.

A settlement on the other hand is a group of people who go into an industrial neighborhood, not in order to convert the people living there to given religious or social beliefs but to find out, so nearly as they may, what the social and civic needs of that neighborhood are, to awaken in a neighborhood a sense of responsibility that they may demand and work for better civic, educational and industrial conditions. They do not try to disturb the people in their religious beliefs. We have coming to Hull-House people who belong to the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Catholic Church, Jews both liberal and orthodox, and a sprinkling of protestants. We would not try to change their religious beliefs any more than we would try to make them all single tax advocates. Difference of belief may divide us but there are things we can unite on, such as the manifest needs of the community. We unite so far as we can. The things that make people alike are much stronger and finer than the things which make them different. This attitude is quite unlike the mission attitude of propaganda, although the activities are much the same. The mission people and the settlement people are glad to have the distinction made. To reproach a settlement because it does not give religious instruction as a mission does, or to reproach a mission for not being a settlement, is equally absurd. I am very glad to make this distinction when it comes in my way, because a certain confusion has taken place in the public mind, very unfair to both movements. The social settlements in Chicago number [page 10] about twenty. There are, I think, no settlements in the State outside of Chicago, [although] there are many centers which have very much the spirit and very much the effect in the community, of settlements.

We have not as many settlements in Chicago, naturally, as they have in New York, where they are growing very rapidly. A settlement is of couse in its essence a democratic movement. Whatever one may think when one first goes to live in a foreign neighborhood, of crossing a social gulf, drops away very quickly in the general comradeship which develops there, so that one looks back to the time when it seemed unnatural to live in one part of the city, rather than in another, as a thing very much of the past. At the present moment I do not know of any place more interesting than South Halsted street. There one can meet young men recently come from Russia, as I saw some a few months ago, who had broken their fingers and fore arms, in order that they may escape service in their army. These men started months ago. If a Russian Jew deserts when he is of military age his family is fined 300 rubles; but if he goes to the recruiting station and joins the army his family is freed and the sergeant is responsible. If he joins the army and escapes and then takes the precaution to break his arm or fingers, so that he cannot pull a trigger, his escape is doubly sure. These men are only now coming to Chicago, having come through Portugal and all sorts of ways to escape detection. They are now beginning to report of the first difficulties in Odessa and [Kiev] and other places in South Russia. It is very exciting, interesting and geniune, this thing. We have formed a little organization in Hull-House, to which various people are encouraged to bring in their letters from abroad, so that we may discern soemthing of the actual condition of things in Russia, not as they are put in the newspapers by correspondents, but written in a friendly letter by actual friends of people here. I wish very much we had some of the ability this historical association has, to sift this evidence, for, in a sense, it is first-hand historical information. It is the event recorded as it happens, as it is being seen and felt -- the sort of thing which may later be gathered into historical libraries, if indeed any of it survives. There is much work of that sort to do, for the scholar who can see life from the historical point of view, the linguist who can make some distinction between the various patois the Italians use, the anthropologist, who can trace something of life as it survives in quaint customs. For instance, the south Italian women bake their bread round, because the south of Italy was settled by the Greeks who baked bread in that form; while the north Italians bake it with a hole in the middle. There are all sorts of interesting customs which only the scholar can trace. The point of view of the man who looks at life, not from the immediate, but from the historical standpoint, is what is constantly needed in a settlement. Sometimes we feel that we ought to have more help from associations such as these. The great foreign colonies coming in ought to be recognized more by the scholars who are able to understnad something of their pasts and their inherited capacities. [page 11]

The Greeks are always clamoring for this recognition. I recall a striking instance of a Greek who sold fruit near the Polk street railway station. For three years, in Greece, while he was saving money to come to America, he used to make drawings of ancient Athens, of which he was very fond. He was a graduate of the Institute of Technology, and drew very well. He had collected a large book of drawings and photographs. He thought that when he came to America, where we had no ruins, that we would be interested to hear about them and would enjoy his description of the great beauty of the white columns of the Propylea against the blue sky. He said he had sold fruit to Americans for years in Chicago, and that although he often had tried to lead the conversation to his beloved Acropolis, no one had ever seemed interested. He came to the conclusion no one in Chicago had heard of ancient Greece, nor knew that it had a wonderful history. He talked to me about Greece because he happened to see a small picture of Athens at Hull House, and he thought that here at least was someone who had heard that such a place as Athens existed. That man was disappointed and Chicago was losing something he could have given to it. I did not like to tell him we had become so snobbish in America, that it did not occur to a man that a shabby-looking foreigner selling apples could have his mind and heart full of the deathless beauties of ancient Greece, although that was really the matter. I said that we were always in a hurry in Chicago, and the people with whom he came in contact were probably going to trains, so that no one had time to talk about Greece; but I assured him that there were people who were really interested. One who has not come into social contact with these foreign citizens of ours ca not appreciate how absorbing are the things they can tell, or the interest attaching to some of the correspondence they receive. All these things are possibilies to people who have historical taste and education. You know they used to tell us, in our school days, that Europe was waked up by the crusades, because people were brought in contact with the eastern civilization. We have a chance today in America, the other way 'round. The crusaders are coming to us, and we have this old civilization all around us, in the large groups of foreign colonies at our very doors, and we could receive the mental awakening if we saw them from the larger point of view. It is a great chance to bring us to an appreciation of the great resources of historical material which are available here, but it requires moral enterprise and a spirit of intellectual adventure, if you please. The settlements are perhaps pioneers in a movement which in time will become much more general and so large that the settlements will drop away as having been a mere formal expression of what all people will care to do later.

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