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Immigration, Urbanization, Americanization and the Settlement House Movement

Theme: Social Changes and Social Reform
Topic: Immigration, Urbanization, Americanization and the Settlement House Movement
Date: January 2004

Annotated Bibliography Secondary Sources | Annotated Bibliography Primary Sources
Websites and Web Resources

Compiled and annotated by SALEM in History staff

Annotated Bibliography

Compiled and annotated by SALEM in History staff

Secondary Sources

Bodnar, John. The Transplanted: A History of Immigrants in Urban America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

Canonical work challenging notion that immigrants were victimized by (and their traditional ways of life destroyed by) both their transatlantic journey and the urban, capitalistic, society they found in the United States between 1830 and 1930. Bodnar gives agency to the immigrants he studies. He argues that immigrants brought both traditions and experiences with them which helped them adjust to and shape the American society they encountered, in order to better meet their needs and maintain traditions that were important. He focuses heavily on the intersection of economic and social forces both in the immigrants' nations of origin and in the United States. Capitalism, and its related patterns of social interaction and organization were not, Bodnar makes clear, unknown to the protagonists of his work. Note: Bodnar restricts this study to European immigrants and to the male experience within that group.

Boyer, Paul. Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820-1920. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978.

Important study about Americans' moral response to the city and resulting strategies for moral and social control among reformers in a nation shifting from one of small town ideals and "island communities" (Boyer's term) to one of urban dwellers. Focus is on those individuals and groups who feared changes wrought by immigration, urbanization, and religious and family disruptions and sought to influence human behavior of city dwellers by way of planned efforts. He identifies a shift in the goals and methods of these reformers; from a moralistic approach to social control in the mid 19th century to a more sociologically- informed approach beginning in the 1890s which was reflective of the newly recognized connection between the material world of city dwellers and the social and "moral" problems which plagued them. In practice, this meant a shift from personal contacts and religiously-tinged charitable organizations and movements, to progressive era transformations in city planning, settlement houses, patrolled urban spaces and the creation of new professional personnel like the social worker. Boyer makes clear that by the 1890s, "reform" took on a secular, "professionalized," (a major concept in the work) social scientific hue instead of a religious or explicitly moral one, but argues that the goals and concerns of the two groups of reformers were largely the same.

Carson, Mina. Settlement Folk: Social Thought and the American Settlement Movement, 1885- 1930. Chicago, Ill.: The University of Chicago Press, 1990.

A study of the lives and ideas of the most significant thinkers and actors in the world of social settlements and settlement houses: Jane Addams, Robert Woods, Mary Simkhovitch, Lillian Wald and Graham Taylor. These articulate leaders also operated in reform circles outside of the settlement house movement. In Carson's analysis settlements houses were sites of a re-working of Victorian ideals to meet the needs of and impact industrializing America. Carson is concerned primarily with the settlement workers, not those they set out to serve and with the changes in their ideas about their roles, their impact, their goals and their practices over the period of her study.

Chambers, John Whiteclay. The Tyranny of Change: America in the Progressive Era, 1890- 1920. 2nd ed. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000.

Revised edition of a classic text providing a sweeping look at the Progressive Era. Highlights the role of the state and civic volunteerism as well as idealistic vision and progressive reform in creating change. Gives credit also, to both conservative and radical forces in shaping the look, feel and outcomes of the "progressive" era. Covers social, economic, cultural and political issues and topics. Looks closely at workers, immigrants, major reformers, corporate giants and everyone in between.

Cooper, J.M. Pivotal Decades, 1900-1920. New York: W.W. Norton, 1990.

A solid, accessible examination of American life in the first two decades of the 20th century that brings to life the confluence and explosion of changes and major new considerations on all fronts. Cooper integrates and explores social, cultural, political and economic factors of the period deftly, bringing each to bear on the other. He argues that these two decades represent a "turning point" in American history, establishing an agenda that still dominates American life at the turn of the 21st century. He delineates the opposing stands taken by the two parties on social and economic issues and highlights the period-long tensions between the ideas of those isolationism and international activism.

Crocker, Ruth Hutchinson. Social Work and Social Order: The Settlement Movement in Two Industrial Cities, 1889-1930. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991.

A valuable reassessment of the American settlement house movement that looks not at the most well-known houses and reformers but at those people who created worked in and were changed by a set of "second tier" settlements-in this case, in both Gary and Indianapolis, Indiana. Her study illustrates the vast diversity of goals, programs and impact of settlement houses in the United States that often look very little like the patterns found in places like Hull House. Outcomes, too, varied from settlement to settlement and, like policies and programs, were often directly tied to the mission, specific founders and funders, and population(s) served. An important book for thinking about or analyzing the activities of settlement houses in small cities across the nation. Each chapter focuses on a specific element of the settlement story: funding, race, religion, etc.

Davis, Allen Freeman. Spearheads for Reform: The Social Settlements and the Progressive Movement, 1890-1914. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Sees settlement houses as only directly impacting the a small fraction of America's poor. Rather the settlement's role was primarily one of educating reformers who used the settlement houses as laboratories for policy changes and reform, thereby demonstrating the effectiveness or efficacy of programs/approaches that the public and politicians could/did embrace on a wider scale.

Diner, Steven J. A Very Different Age: Americans of the Progressive Era. New York: Hill and Wang, 1998.

A comprehensive overview of an era which synthesizes the work being done recent years and makes an important contribution to the short list of readable works aiming to make sense of and guide readers through the forest of changes, groups, activities and concerns of this watershed period in American history. Book chapters each cover a different topic ranging from immigration to economics and labor issues to political agendas and foreign policy to cultural and technological changes. Fluid reading and very usable information. Much on immigrants, people of color and women. Identifies both successes and failures of the period.

Ewen, Elizabeth. Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars: Life and Culture on the Lower East Side, 1890-1925. Monthly Review Press, 1985. (esp. Chapter 4 "Agents of Assimilation")

Focuses on the lives and experiences of two generations of women in Jewish and Italian immigrant families at the turn of the twentieth century in New York City-mothers from the "Old World" and daughters from the "New"-as they worked to settle in to life in urban modernizing America. Makes extensive use of oral histories. Highlights the process of Americanization for these women and the ways in which their past and present combined to shape their futures. Chapter 4 "Agents of Assimilation" brings female settlement house workers and their ideas about reform and progress into the story; these "agents" were as both positive and problematic forces in women's lives.

Gilmore, Elizabeth Glenda ed. Who Were the Progressives?: Readings. Historians at Work Series. Boston and New York: Bedford/ St. Martin's Press, 2002.

Part of the well-respected and well-received "Historians at Work" series, this volume includes eight essays from leading historians of the so-called "Progressive" era, exploring the multiple backgrounds, goals, agendas, methods, successes, failures and challenges faced by a remarkable (albeit hard to easily categorize) group of Americans who were committed to making change happen.

Higham, John. Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925. 2nd ed. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1988.

The standard, seminal work on nativism in American thought. Nativism is presented as an idea and a sentiment (tied to nationalism), more than a set of practices, and thus, Higham is able trace a fairly consistent nativist vein in America over some six decades, even as he shows its increasing emotional intensity.

Kraut, Alan, The Huddled Masses: The Immigrant in American Society, 1880-1921. Arlington Heights, Ill.: Arlan Davidson, 1986.

A good introduction to the varied pre and post-immigrant experiences of those who came to (and often left again) the United States during the second major "wave" of immigration.Includes information and explorations of European immigrants as well as those from China and Japan. Argues that many factors influenced the decision to immigrate to the United States and the shape of life once in America; emphasis is on the individual variation and experience of immigration rather than on generalizations about groups.

Lasch-Quinn, Elisabeth. Black Neighbors: Race and the Limits of Reform in the American Settlement House Movement, 1890-1945. Chapel Hill, N.C: The University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

Provides an important view of the American Settlement Movement by focusing on the relationship between settlement houses and workers and the needs of African Americans. Details the ways in which the mainstream, white, well-known settlement movement failed to address the needs of Black Americans even as they demonstrated their deep awareness of the struggles of white ethnics. Lasch then explores the ways in which a variety of other institutions provided some version of settlement work/services to African Americans. Ties race to the decline of the settlement movement.

Lissak, Rivka. "Myth and Reality: The Pattern of Relationship between the Hull House Circle and the 'New Immigrants' on Chicago's West Side, 1890-1919." Journal of American Ethnic History vol. 2 no 2. (Spring 1983): 21-50.

Lissak explores the question of how local immigrants viewed Jane Addams and Hull House and investigates the area residents' degree of involvement with the settlement. Her findings challenge the idea that Hull House reformers either understood, met the needs of, or fully became the center of activity for many immigrants in the neighborhood around the settlement. In particular, Lissak demonstrates the lack of involvement in Hull House activities by Jewish and Italian immigrants, and the failure of Hull House workers and leaders to truly understand either the lived realities or the desires and goals of those immigrants among whom they lived and worked.

Link, Arthur and Richard L. McCormick eds. Progressivism. Arlington Heights, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, 1983.

An excellent introduction-by leading historians-to the major people, activities and strands of the "movement"as well as its complexities and nuances. A must-read for anyone familiarizing themselves with that wonderfully complex entity called the "Progressive Era."

Muncy, Robyn. Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform, 1890-1935. New York: Oxford University Press,1991.

Focusing centrally on the child welfare reform movement, Muncy argues that there was a "continuity of reform activities among America's middle-class, [white, Protestant] women" between the Progressive era and the New Deal. She illustrates the ways in which women combined traditional female roles with growing professionalization to create a "female dominion"-through an interlocking set of organizations and agencies-in the mostly male world of policy-making. At the head of this dominion was the Children's Bureau in the federal Department of Labor. The dominion ended when the movement achieved its goal with the passage of New Deal legislation.

Painter, Nell Irvin. Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919. New York: W.W. Norton, 1989.

Comprehensive history of the United States from Reconstruction to the end of the first World War. Interpretive bent is toward seeing the U.S. as poised on the brink of destruction during this period in which so many changes and challenges faced the American people. More emphasis on social history than political or economic, although all appear throughout.

Rodgers, Daniel T. "In Search of Progressivism," Reviews in American History 10:113-132. (1982)

In response to scholars who called for an end to the use of the term "Progressive," Rodgers' classic revisionist article proposes a way to reconcile the inconsistencies and multiple components inherent in the complex of groups, activities and agendas called "Progressivism" by scholars. Rejects both group-based explanations and typologies based on ideology. Instead, Rodgers claims that a set of three distinct but flexible and overlapping "languages of discontent" (a distaste for monopolies, a desire for social harmony, and a call for efficiency) ran through the ways that Progressives talked about society; this flexibility allowed "Progressives" to hold and pursue disparate (and sometimes even opposing) goals and ideas.

Sklar, Karen Kish. Florence Kelley and the Nation's Work: The Rise of Women's Political Culture, 1830-1900. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

A biography of Florence Kelley--one of the nation's leading reformers in the Progressive Era--covering the first forty years of her life.. Also functions as a political history of the nation during this period when women, especially, took on the task of challenging and changing the patterns of abuses that arose in industrializing, urbanizing America, especially those tied to unregulated industrial capitalism itself. Discusses the ways in which earlier generations of women helped make women reformers centrality in the 1890s possible.

Sklar, Kathryn Kish. "Hull House in the 1890s: A Community of Women Reformers." Signs vol.10 (Summer 1985): 658-677.

Important article laying out the central role that living and working at Hull House played in the political influence Hull House workers and leaders were able to wield in Progressive-era America. Strengthened and kept safe from criticism by their work with Hull House (a separate women's institution), Jane Addams, Florence Kelley and others were able to develop solid political leadership skills and platforms which allowed them to move into larger arenas and bring about gender-specific reforms which met class-specific goals. Sklar offers her Hull House example as a paradigm for the creation and shape of women's political power and influence in the progressive era-even without the vote.

Trolander, Judith Ann. Professionalism and Social Change: From the Settlement House Movement to Neighborhood Centers, 1886 to the Present. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.

Traces the changes in reform ideas and activities of settlement house workers as movement transformed from experience of upper-middle class living experience/experiment to a professional world of social work and workers. Covers the decline of the settlement movement.

Weibe, Robert. The Search for Order, 1877-1920. New York: Hill and Wang, 1967.

A foundational work exploring the rise and shape of both mechanisms and movements to establish order and stability during a period in which American was being transformed from a nation of what Weibe calls "island communities" to an urban, interconnected and complex society. Weibe asserts that there was a "revolution in values" during this period and that "bureaucratization" was a central means by which Americans sought to gain control over and organize their new lives. Scientific management, the professionalization of certain occupations, and the idea of reform in stages (among other examples) all reflected a desire to create a structured, ordered society in the midst of a great deal of change. The actions and ideals of progressives and Progressivism are both well-explained by this interpretation.

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Primary Sources

Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull House. New York: Macmillan, 1910.

Addams' autobiography discussing her childhood, the experiences and ideas that led her to imagine and create Hull House and the shape of life at and goals of Hull House during its first 20 years of existence. This is both a personal and institutional story which makes clear the links between a wide range of forces and factors in late Victorian and Progressive-Era America: from gender and education, to immigration and capitalism. As an autobiography this work, like all autobiographies, is a carefully constructed re-telling of the author's life and it contains inaccuracies and omissions about the years she writes of. Both in spite of and because of this, Twenty Years is a wonderfully rich source if/when contextualized and unpacked.

Goldberger, Henry H. English for Coming Citizens. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,

Textbook with lessons for teaching English to immigrants The English language lessons, though, are also explicit in the way they treach rules and expectations for life in industrial America.

Polacheck, Hilda Satt. Edited by Dena J. Polacheck Epstein. I Came a Stranger: The Story of a Hull House Girl. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991.

Memoir of a woman who, as a young girl, arrived at Hull House after fleeing with her family from Russian pogroms. Polacheck's story is one rarely heard: about the mundane details of immigrant life, the dynamism of her place and time, and the workings of Hull House from the point of view of an immigrant who was a beneficiary of Jane Addams' greatest creation. Polacheck's memoir introduces readers to Addams as well as other luminaries of the Progressive era. Her story, ultimately, is one of upward mobility and praise for Addams' vision and implementation.

Riis, Jacob. How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910.

A famed photo-text based on photographs and observations of urban life in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. These images and Riis' accompanying text not only shaped Progressive-era ideas about the problems of immigration, immigrants and urban living and working conditions, but have been reproduced over and over since such that they continue to shape our modern views of the same.

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Websites and Web Resources

Compiled and annotated by SALEM in History staff

American Family Immigration History Center: Ellis Island

Here it is possible to research passenger arrival records of the ships that brought immigrants who to Ellis Island and through the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924. Original ships' manifests with passenger names are included.

The Life of City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906

This silent motion picture footage--which can be viewed online--highlights New York as well as the process of urban growth and change at the turn of the 20th century. Footage depicts development of infrastructure, city workers and city services,the hustle and bustle of the city, transportation and leisure, workers and laborers, immigrants, skyscrapers and subways, horse drawn carriages and motor cars. Films made by both the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, and the Edison Company. The site offers essays to help frame and contextualize the films in light of "New York at the Turn of the Century", "America at the Turn of the Century," and "Pioneer Cameramen." Included, too, are selected bibliographies on New York and early motion pictures. There is a direct link for teachers to a "Collection Connection" from the LOC's Learning Page.

On the Lower East Side

This site, created by William Crozier to accompany a class at St. Mary's University of Minnesota documents life at the turn of the twentieth century in Manhattan's most well-known immigrant neighborhood, which was also full of notorious tenements. A wide variety of sources can be found here--speeches and photographs, political commission reports, depictions of life in tenements written by journalists and social workers. Focus is on immigration and life in/problems with tenement houses. Highlights include selections from Jacob Riis' "How the Other Half Lives," the Mayor's Pushcart Commission, and articles about the Tenement Exhibit of 1900.

Urban Experience in Chicago: Hull-House and Its Neighborhoods, 1889-1963

Provides primary sources, scholarly essays, and teacher resources. This website was created (and is being constantly updated and expanded) by scholars, educators and students at the University of Illinois at Chicago, which sits in the vicinity of the original Hull House neighborhood, is the repository for a vast amount of Hull House-related material, and is a center of scholarship connected to the settlement and its famous founder. The goal of Urban Experience is to tell the story of, and make accessible primary sources related to Jane Addams, Hull House and the social settlement movement, and the history of Chicago's New West Side neighborhood and the immigrant populations therein. It contains primary source documents, historic photographs and scholarly essays. The site is to be commended for making explicit and understandable the overlapping forces and factors at play in both the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era, forces that brought Hull House into being and Addams to such prominence. User friendly, the site offers visitors a range of options for navigating the interpretive essays and over 750 separate primary sources (including personal correspondence, newspaper and journal articles, unpublished manuscripts, maps and photographs) that make this site such a rich resource. Divided into eleven chapters, a "Historical Narrative" section is the heart of the site. Each chapter is further subdivided and each combines an interpretive essay with links to primary sources related to the topic(s) at hand, topics that include "The Settlement Idea," "The Function of the Settlement," "Progressive Politics, Suffrage and the Women's Agenda nationally," "Why Chicago," Race, Citizenship and Community," "Clubs and Activities," "Recreation and Public Space," and "Residents and Education: The School as Social Center." Site visitors looking for a particular source or sources can search the entire site by way of the Search component of this section, or by visiting the "Primary Sources" section of the site (which allows searches based on titles, authors, dates and keywords.) The site's "Geography" section deserves special mention, for it makes available a variety of historic maps (of both Chicago more generally, and the Hull House neighborhood in particular) that document urban growth, ethnic and racial diversity, and architectural and economic patterns in the area of the settlement. These maps are fantastic teaching tools. Another unique element of the Urban Experience… is the "Images" section which, while still under construction, offers a quick link to all of the photo galleries (image essays with little textual accompaniment) and image essays (which make historical concepts visual and are accompanied by text) that appear throughout the site. Finally, a very user-friendly "Teacher Resources" area of the site suggests strategies and activities for using the site and the sources it offers in the classroom. Note that this site is linked to the Jane Addams Hull House museum at the university. A direct link to the museum's website is From here visitors can access a bibliography of books and scholarly articles about Addams and Hull House.

Related Archives and Collections

Compiled and annotated by SALEM in History staff

The House of Seven Gables Settlement and Neighborhood Center

An extant settlement house in Salem, MA at 114 Derby St. on the historic waterfront. Unique among the annals of settlement houses, the initial funding for this settlement house and its work came from tourists at the 17th century Turner House in Salem, a structure made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne's depiction of it in The House of the Seven Gables. A firm believer in the power of settlement work, Salem philanthropist Caroline Emmerton renovated the Turner House, created an historic site and used its revenue to found and fund The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association in 1910. Her goal: to serve Salem's increasingly immigrant and ethnic population. The Settlement and Neighborhood Center currently provides educational, social and recreational programs for the families and children of Salem and the surrounding communities.

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