Progressives sought to reunite Americans,to overcome the many bitter divisions that separated rich and poor,employers and employees,native citizens and immigrants,adherents of one faith and those of all others.The settlement house movement reflected the desire to bridge divisions by bringing the ideas and energies of middle-class Americans to poor immigrant neighborhoods.Many Americans did not share the progressives' aspiration to find some middle ground between conflicting groups.Working people,members of labor unions,and black Americans feared that the middle ground would be nothing more than the continuation of a status quo they found unacceptable.The following documents illustrate the attitudes and experiences that drew some people toward progressive reforms and that caused others to seek change by insisting on the recognition of fundamental differences among Americans.Jane Addams on Settlement Houses
Progressives engaged in many reform activities besides electoral politics. Settlement houses were among the most important centers of progressive reform. Jane Addams, founder of Chicago's Hull House, explained her motives in a paper she presented in 1892 to a group of women considering settlement work. In “The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements,” Addams revealed attitudes and perceptions that motivated many other progressive reformers.
ull House (New York: Macmillan, 1910).
The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements, 1892
This paper is an attempt to analyze the motives which underlie a movement based,not only upon conviction,but upon genuine emotion,wherever educated young people are seeking an outlet for that sentiment of universal brotherhood,which the best spirit of our times is forcing from an emotion into a motive.These young people accomplish little toward the solution of this social problem,and bear the brunt of being cultivated into unnourished,oversensitive lives.They have been shut off from the common labor by which they live which is a great source of moral and physical health.They feel a fatal want of harmony between their theory and their lives,a lack of coordination between thought and action.I think it is hard for us to realize how seriously many of them are taking to the notion of human brotherhood,how eagerly they long to give tangible expression to the democratic ideal.These young men and women,longing to socialize their democracy,are animated by certain hopes which may be thus loosely formulated;that if in a democratic country nothing can be permanently achieved save through the masses of the people,it will be impossible to establish a higher political life than the people themselves crave;that it is difficult to see how the notion of a higher civic life can be fostered save through common intercourse;that the blessings which we associate with a life of refinement and cultivation can be made universal and must be made universal if they are to be permanent;that the good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain,is floating in mid-air,until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.It is easier to state these hopes than to formulate the line of motives,which I believe to constitute the trend of the subjective pressure toward the Settlement. . . .
You may remember the forlorn feeling which occasionally seizes you when you arrive early in the morning a stranger in a great city:the stream of laboring people goes past you as you gaze through the plate-glass window of your hotel;you see hard workingmen lifting great burdens;you hear the driving and jostling of huge carts and your heart sinks with a sudden sense of futility.The door opens behind you and you turn to the man who brings you in your breakfast with a quick sense of human fellowship.You find yourself praying that you may never lose your hold on it all. . . .You turn helplessly to the waiter and feel that it would be almost grotesque to claim from him the sympathy you crave because civilization has placed you apart,but you resent your position with a sudden sense of snobbery. . . .
I have seen young girls suffer and grow sensibly lowered in vitality in the first years after they leave school.In our attempt . . .to give a girl pleasure and freedom from care we succeed,for the most part,in making her pitifully miserable.She finds “life” so different from what she expected it to be.She is besotted with innocent little ambitions,and does not understand this apparent waste of herself,this elaborate preparation,if no work is provided for her.There is a heritage of noble obligation which young people accept and long to perpetuate.The desire for action,the wish to right wrong and alleviate suffering haunts them daily.Society smiles at it indulgently instead of making it of value to itself. . . .
[F]rom babyhood the altruistic tendencies of these daughters are persistently cultivated.They are taught to be self-forgetting and self-sacrificing,to consider the good of the whole before the good of the ego.But when all this information and culture show results,when the daughter comes back from college and begins to recognize her social claim to the “submerged tenth,” and to evince a disposition to fulfill it,the family claim is strenuously asserted;she is told that she is unjustified,ill-advised in her efforts. . . .
We have in America a fast-growing number of cultivated young people who have no recognized outlet for their active faculties.They hear constantly of the great social maladjustment,but no way is provided for them to change it,and their uselessness hangs about them heavily. . . .These young people have had advantages of college,of European travel,and of economic study,but they are sustaining this shock of inaction.They have pet phrases,and they tell you that the things that make us all alike are stronger than the things that make us different.They say that all men are united by needs and sympathies far more permanent and radical than anything that temporarily divides them and sets them in opposition to each other. . . .
This young life,so sincere in its emotion and good phrase and yet so undirected,seems to me as pitiful as the other great mass of destitute lives.One is supplementary to the other,and some method of communication can surely be devised. . . .Our young people feel nervously the need of putting theory into action,and respond quickly to the Settlement form of activity.
Other motives which I believe make toward the Settlement are the result of a certain renaissance going forward in Christianity.The impulse to share the lives of the poor,the desire to make social service,irrespective of propaganda,express the spirit of Christ,is as old as Christianity itself. . . .
I believe that there is a distinct turning among many young men and women toward this simple acceptance of Christ's message.They resent the assumption that Christianity is a set of ideas which belong to the religious consciousness,whatever that may be.They insist that it cannot be proclaimed and instituted apart from the social life of the community and that it must seek a simple and natural expression in the social organism itself.The Settlement movement is only one manifestation of that wider humanitarian movement which throughout Christendom . . .is endeavoring to embody itself,not in a sect,but in society itself.
I believe that this turning,this renaissance of the early Christian humanitarianism,is going on in America,in Chicago,if you please,without leaders who write or philosophize,without much speaking,but with a bent to express in social service and in terms of action the spirit of Christ.Certain it is that spiritual force is found in the Settlement movement,and it is also true that this force must be evoked and must be called into play before the success of any Settlement is assured.There must be the overmastering belief that all that is noblest in life is common to men as men,in order to accentuate the likenesses and ignore the differences which are found among the people whom the Settlement constantly brings into juxtaposition. . . .
In a thousand voices singing the Hallelujah Chorus in Handel's Messiah,it is possible to distinguish the leading voices,but the differences of training and cultivation between them and the voices of the chorus,are lost in the unity of purpose and in the fact that they are all human voices lifted by a high motive.This is a weak illustration of what a Settlement attempts to do.It aims,in a measure,to develop whatever of social life its neighborhood may afford,to focus and give form to that life,to bring to bear upon it the results of cultivation and training;but it receives in exchange for the music of isolated voices the volume and strength of the chorus.It is quite impossible for me to say in what proportion or degree the subjective necessity which led to the opening of Hull-House combined the three trends:first,the desire to interpret democracy in social terms;secondly,the impulse beating at the very source of our lives,urging us to aid in the race progress;and,thirdly,the Christian movement toward humanitarianism. . . .
The Settlement,then,is an experimental effort to aid in the solution of the social and industrial problems which are engendered by the modern conditions of life in a great city.It insists that these problems are not confined to any one portion of a city.It is an attempt to relieve,at the same time,the overaccumulation at one end of society and the destitution at the other;but it assumes that this overaccumulation and destitution is most sorely felt in the things that pertain to social and educational privileges.From its very nature it can stand for no political or social propaganda. . . .The one thing to be dreaded in the Settlement is that it lose its flexibility,its power of quick adaptation,its readiness to change its methods as its environment may demand.It must be open to conviction and must have a deep and abiding sense of tolerance.It must be hospitable and ready for experiment.It should demand from its residents a scientific patience in the accumulation of facts and the steady holding of their sympathies as one of the best instruments for that accumulation.It must be grounded in a philosophy whose foundation is on the solidarity of the human race,a philosophy which will not waver when the race happens to be represented by a drunken woman or an idiot boy.Its residents must be emptied of all conceit of opinion and all self-assertion,and ready to arouse and interpret the public opinion of their neighborhood.They must be content to live quietly side by side with their neighbors,until they grow into a sense of relationship and mutual interests.Their neighbors are held apart by differences of race and language which the residents can more easily over-come.They are bound to see the needs of their neighborhood as a whole,to furnish data for legislation,and to use their influence to secure it.In short,residents are pledged to devote themselves to the duties of good citizenship and to the arousing of the social energies which too largely lie dormant in every neighborhood given over to industrialism. . . .
I may be forgiven the reminder that the best speculative philosophy sets forth the solidarity of the human race;that the highest moralists have taught that without the advance and improvement of the whole,no man can hope for any lasting improvement in his own moral or material individual condition;and that the subjective necessity for Social Settlements is therefore identical with that necessity,which urges us on toward social and individual salvation.
- According to Addams,what was subjective about the necessity for social settlements?What did she see as major problems in her society?
- In what ways did Addams believe settlements would make “universal” those “blessings which we associate with a life of refinement and cultivation”?What differences did she notice among people,and what did she identify as the unity underlying those differences?
- To what extent did Addams think social settlements would serve the interests of educated middle-class women,as well as immigrants?How might immigrants have described their own and Addams's interests in settlement houses?
- To what degree did settlement houses exemplify progressive approaches to the solution of social and industrial problems?
A Sociologist Studies Working-Class Saloons in Chicago
Progressive temperance reformers believed that saloons seduced customers into lives of drunkenness, crime, and debauchery. Many progressives also believed social problems such as saloons should be studied scientifically. Sociologist Royal Melendy investigated saloons in a working-class neighborhood of Chicago as part of an “Ethical Subcommittee” set up to study “the liquor problem,” as he put it. Venturing out from a progressive social settlement house in an industrial district of the city, Melendy discovered that saloons met major needs of working people. His study, excerpted below, revealed the gap between the realities of working-class life and the assumptions and preconceptions of many progressives.
Royal Melendy, “The Saloon in Chicago,”The American Journal of Sociology, 6 (November 1900), 289–306.
Royal MelendyEthical Substitutes for the Saloon, 1900
In considering the subject “Ethical Substitutes for the Saloon,” ...[w]e must try to ascertain the secret of its hold upon our civilization. . . .
The popular conception of the saloon as a “place where men and women revel in drunkenness and shame,” or “where the sotted beasts gather nightly at the bar,” is due to exaggerated pictures,drawn by temperance lecturers and evangelists,intended to excite the imagination with a view to arousing public sentiment.I am not charging them with intended falsehood,but with placing in combination things which never so exist in real life;with blending into one picture hideous incidents taken here and there from the lives of those whom the saloon has wrecked;with portraying vividly the dark side of saloon life and calling this picture “the saloon.”...
The term “saloon” is too general to admit of concise definition.It is an institution grown up among the people,not only in answer to their demand for its wares,but to their demand for certain necessities and conveniences,which it supplies,either alone or better than any other agency.It is a part of the neighborhood,which must change with the neighborhood;it fulfills in it the social functions which unfortunately have been left to it to exercise.With keen insight into human nature and into the wants of the people,it anticipates all other agencies in supplying them,and thus claims its right to existence.In some sections of the city it has the appearance of accomplishing more for the laboring classes from business interests than we from philanthropic motives. . . .
Hedged in on every side by law,opposed by every contrivance the mind of man could invent,the saloon persists in existing and flourishing. . . .The saloonin Chicago is restricted by every kind of law,yet it sells liquor to minors,keeps open door all night and Sundays,from January 1 to January1. . . .
When the poor,underpaid,and unskilled laborer returns from his day's work,go with him,if you will,into the room or rooms he calls “home.” Eat with him there,in the midst of those squalid surroundings and to the music of crying children,a scanty,poorly cooked meal served by an unkempt wife.Ask yourself if this is just the place where he would want to spend his evenings,night after night. . . .Is there no escape from the inevitable despair that must come to him whose long hours of heavy physical labor preclude any mental enjoyment,if his few leisure hours are to be spent in the wretched surroundings of a home,or,worse yet,of the ordinary cheap lodging-house,either of which must constantly remind him of his poverty?Are there not places in the neighborhood where the surroundings will be more congenial;where his mental,yes,his moral,nature will have a better chance for development?Are there not some in the neighborhood who have recognized and sought to satisfy the social cravings of these men,which the home at best does not wholly satisfy?
Yes,business interests have occupied this field.With a shrewd foresight,partially due to the fierce competition between the great brewing companies,they have seen and met these needs.The following table,made by a careful investigation of each of the 163 saloons of the seventeenth ward—a fairly representative ward of the working people—shows some of the attractions offered by these saloons:
In the statement,now current among those who have studied the saloon “at first hand,” that it is the workingman's club,lies the secret of its hold upon the vast working and voting populace of Chicago.That same instinct in man which leads those of the more resourceful classes to form such clubs as the Union League Club . . .which leads the college man into the fraternity,leads the laboring men into the clubs furnished them by the saloonkeeper,not from philanthropic motives,but because of shrewd business foresight.The term “club” applies;for,though unorganized,each saloon has about the same constituency night after night.Its character is determined by the character of the men who,having something in common,make the saloon their rendezvous.Their common ground may be their nationality,as the name “Italian Headquarters” implies;or it may be their occupation,as indicated by the names “Mechanics' Exchange,” “Milkman's Exchange,” etc.;or,if their political affiliations are their common ground,there are the “Democratic Headquarters of the Eighteenth Ward,” etc. . . .As you step in,you find a few men standing at the bar,a few drinking,and farther back men are seated about the tables,reading,playing cards,eating,and discussing,over a glass of beer,subjects varying from the political and sociological problems of the day to the sporting news and the lighter chat of the immediate neighborhood.Untrammeled by rules and restrictions,it surpasses in spirit the organized club.That general atmosphere of freedom,that spirit of democracy,which men crave,is here realized;that men seek it and that the saloon tries to cultivate it is blazoned forth in such titles as “The Freedom,” “The Social,” “The Club,” etc.Here men “shake out their hearts together.” ...