The University of Chicago Settlement Project

By D.E. Proctor

Editor’s Note: This lengthy report is significant for several reason: 1) it was written by a “resident” of the Chicago Settlement in 1925 0r 1926, thirty years after the founding of the organization; 2) his opportunities to interview and observe Mary McDowell, the original Head Worker, and compare her work and vision with the then current programs was exceptional; and 3) the author’s relationship and perspective of the other residents, both paid staff and the volunteers who lived and worked in the agency, shared meals, worked with the neighborho0d people and otherwise interacted on a daily basis, offers an insight seldom reported in the history of settlements of that period. No specific information about D.E. Proctor beyond this report is available.

The original Project report written by D.E. Proctor was typed on 47 pages but faded and difficult to read.  It has been transcribed by Ian Lewenstein, a Research Assistant, and slightly formatted for appearance

The original project was to find out what the relation was between the Settlement and the members of the community as a social force controlling personalities in the community. This would have involved a study of the relation of the philosophy of the Settlement to the technique of control, and the results of effects on the controlled individual. The interest was, in other words, to find out the purposes or motives of the Settlement and the success or failure of that purpose to “get across” through the technique.

This was to be done by a study of a number of individuals and groups in the community who have had some relation to the Settlement. It was hoped to be able to get life histories of these individuals and groups complete enough to give the controls effected by the Settlement as an institution of social force and other social forces in the community. Because of the failure of the girl’s worker to cooperate (she felt it would not be possible to get adequate life histories) it was found impracticable for the present to make a study of girls’ groups. The gymnasium instructor who is a student in one of the introductory sections in Sociology cooperated fully and undertook to write up the life history of two young men who have come under his control. I have charge of all of the older boys club work myself and have attempted to write up a history of one of the boys “gangs” or clubs. But this is not very satisfactory because I am new to the Settlement work, having been in it for only five months: I do not represent the typical Settlement worker neither in philosophy nor technique. So that, although a large part of the history of the club related to that part of the history of the club previous to my contact with it and while it was being influenced by more typical representatives of the Settlement, the more detailed and valuable part of the history is a diary of my own experience with the club. This is what is not satisfactory from the view point of an attempt to find the relation of the Settlement to that club.

It was found further that life histories of older individuals would be impracticable to obtain because of the language difficulties of gaining rapport or cooperation.

The project and methods changed somewhat under these influences. Interest became centered upon the Settlement as an institution of social forces in the community and the development of that institution. The project now became—a study of the history of the Settlement as an organization, with attention not upon its effects in the community but upon the motives, organization and institutionalization under the influence of factors in the community and the group of origin. It is to be a study not only of the more formal organization of the Settlement but also of the hidden organization as evidenced in the relations of workers to each other. It became a study of a group: the motives back of it; its origin and organization, the philosophy of the Settlement as it was in the beginning and as it has developed, the activities of the Settlement, its techniques, the relations of its personnel, its institutionalization.

The life histories obtained, from this view point give concrete data for determining the philosophy, policies, technique etc…


  1. What motives or forces and what processes have operated to make the University of Chicago Settlement what it is today.
  •  What is the philosophy back of the Settlement?
  • What were the motives of the founders of the Settlement?
  • How did these persons seek to carry their purposes into effect?
  • How have their experiences ? their purposes and philosophy and technique?
  • What have been the factors operating to develop a structure?
  • What is the Settlement today?
  • What has been the effect or control of the Settlement over the few cases about whom we have been able to obtain data?


The Settlement is viewed, not as a social force in the community but as a result of social forces operating to create and mold it.


 I. Life History Studies.

  • I studied the life histories of two young men (thru Mr. Knox) who have come under the influence of the Settlement, and the life history of a group of younger boys between 14 and 17 years of age.
  • I wrote a diary of my own experiences with the club and observation during my contact with it as its leader. (5 months)

In these observations and studies I have attempted to find out: (1) Why the boys came to the Settlement in the first place; (2) What their experiences with the Settlement were from their own view point; (3) What wishes were satisfied, what not satisfied; (4) What new ideas or ideals were developed by the Settlement; (5) What their attitudes and wishes were; (6) Which of these were effected by the Settlement; (7) What their attitudes were toward the Settlement and its personnel; (8) The relation between cause and effect of the technique of the Settlement.

To get this data I first won a rapport with the members of the club. I called in members of the group for interviews asking them questions and encouraging them to express themselves freely. While I was with the boys at club meetings, social events, etc., I observed and noted gestures and spontaneous remarks such as revealed their attitudes.

I observed carefully and recorded the effect of my own technique for control and the effect of others in the Settlement who came in contact with them and attempted to control them.

I talked with Mr. Knox, the gymnasium instructor who was assisting me and advised him as to how he should get the desired information from the two young men whose life histories he wrote.

II. A History of the Settlement.

I obtained the official and unofficial records of the Settlement, the annual reports and publications setting forth the philosophy of the Settlement, its activities etc. Most of this material was written to influence either a board of directors or a contributing public or to create public opinion. I studied these carefully, excerpting such as parts as seemed to reveal or summarize attitudes, activities or techniques.

I also obtained copies of the writings of Miss McDowell. These were largely for purposes of creating such public opinion as would force civic authorities to do what she wanted them to do for the community.

I interviewed Miss McDowell to get her early attiudes and motives in organizing the Settlement and her present attitudes. I interviewed less formally all of the other workers of the Settlement to get their attitudes toward the Settlement, its purpose etc.

I observed and kept constantly in mind the internal organization of the residents and workers with the idea of getting the “true” relationship (not the formal statement found recorded in the files) of the personnel.

I am now attempting to organize this material so as to bring out most clearly the history of the University of Chicago Settlement from the view point of its internal organization.

The Philosophy of the Settlement

The Philosophy Back of the Settlement.—The materials have not revealed to any satisfactory extent the movements, motives and factors back of the Settlement or the settlement movement in Chicago.

In England it is said that the Settlement rose out of a protest against the formally organized charities. There was a desire to understand the poor so as to more sympathetically and intelligently administer to their needs. The motive was religious but the method different from the conventional religious method.

The belief in democracy—the brotherhood of all people and classes—the equal rights to a “fuller life”—was behind the movement in Chicago if not in England and we find statements of how the Settlement symbolizes American ideals of democracy. Related to this motive is the religious motive which wishes to share with the poor and unfortunate—those who do not get opportunities—the fuller life, the cultured life of the upper classes and especially of the university group.

There was in Chicago something as in England, a revolt against the conventional charity organizations and the missions. There was a feeling that relief was not fundamental but rather that the poor needed to be understood and sympathetically helped to help themselves. People who represented this movement wanted to go and live among the poor and be a good neighbor. Neighborliness is fundamental to the Settlement movement in Chicago. It was a release for the desire to ameliorate conditions, especially industrial conditions which had gained the attention of the public because of their disorganization.

Slumming was becoming popular. A settlement had been established in the “best” district—Hull House, another in the second “best” district—Chicago Commons. The University was contributing to the popularity of slumming as evidenced in statements regarding the need for university students to get away from the selfish atmosphere of the university and get the social attitude to be gained by living among the poor. There was also a sincere desire among some to get the facts of the industrial unrest—to understand the poor and their needs—and then to help satisfy those needs. There can be little doubt however that the popularity of the movement contributed much to the support received by the Settlements in their organization.

So, we find that religious impulse, a missionary motive was at the basis of the movement but that it was given direction by the example of the English settlement, the democratic principle is conceived then, a revolting as in England against the charities and missions, and the industrial crisis of the time, the ideal of the home, the church and the universities, (the neighbor, the introduction into a fuller life, the understanding growing out of a study of conditions). It is said by one writer, possibly as a rationalization, that the aim of the Settlement was practical in that it strove to lead to new and proper lines of conduct and to establish a new moral judgment toward industrial problems in particular. The movement was given impetus by its popularity. It was almost a fashion. The University of Chicago Settlement was given a pattern in Hull House and Chicago Commons.

The Philosophy Behind the Organization of the University of Chicago Settlement and in particular that of Miss Mary E. McDowell.—The impulse behind the foundation of the University of Chicago Settlement came from two sources. One came from the University of Chicago which sent two men over to the stockyards to make a preliminary study with a view to founding a settlement to be connected with the University. The other was from Mary McDowell who was asked to come to establish the Settlement in this same community by the University of Chicago.

The motives of the University of Chicago are hard to define because of the vacuity of statements or published material on hand. There is a hint of the origin of a social attitude movement at about that time—a feeling that the life of the university student was too narrow and confining and that it would be to the benefit of her students to get contact with the poorer classes. It would broaden them. There was also, probably, a motive for getting facts for scientific understanding of the industrial disorganization prevalent at the time. There was also a popular pressure and suggestion in an excitement over these conditions and a rising fashion for slumming. All these motives and others—including a desire to get on the “bandwagon” in a popular movement which was still a matter of prediction. One element in the University thought that the Settlement should be purely philanthropic.

Miss McDowell’s motives are more easily determined from her writings and interview with her.

Miss McDowell was raised in a wealthy home in Evanston. Her father was an industrial man. He was extremely democratic, in his social life taking in to dinner and social fellowship people of all classes from the lowest to the highest, not that democracy was talked about but it was practiced constantly in the home. This seems to be most fundamental to all of Miss McDowell’s philosophy. Her father was a very personal friend of at least one of the presidents of the United States and was offered political positions which were rejected and yet he seems to have considerable interest in things political and a strong loyalty for the government and democracy. Possibly in this is to be found the source of Miss McDowell’s civic interests. Miss McDowell at one time spent a month in the white house as a guest of the president. Her father was quite democratic in his relations to his employees.

Miss McDowell was raised in the Methodist Church, was very active in the missionary work and young peoples and other activities of the church. She taught classes etc. in the church and was a conscientious supporter of its activities. She took a kindergarten course and worked in the Hull House kindergarten for one year, studying while there. She also worked in a “slummy” neighborhood in S. Clark and in some other place in kindergarten work.

The settlement idea and method seemed different to her from the mission idea and method and she was much interested in it. She didn’t like the way missions were run. She got from Hull House, according to her own statement the habit of gathering facts before making an appeal. The formal organization and proselyting of the missions were offensive to her. At the time of the founding of the Settlement or rather just before this, in 1894, there was a great deal of excitement over the industrial unrest and more particularly the railroad strike. Pullman who had thought he was giving many privileges and only succeeded in being autocratic was a central figure. Miss McDowell’s father had been very democratic in his relations with his employees giving them participation in the affairs of concern. Evanston was far away from all this industrial disturbance and did not understand it. Miss McDowell had a strong desire to know what it was all about. She wanted to get the facts first hand. The people in Evanston talked as though the people were brutes etc. Her experience at home and that with Hull House and other work in the slums gave her a means of satisfying her desire to understand the meaning of the unrest by getting the point of view of the people. Democracy was for her a right to give every human being the best chance. Her motives were both democratic and religious. Every child should have the best—the kind of a house to live in. Government should be for and by the people.

Her ideas, motives, and plans or techniques were not at all definitely formulated in her own mind and they were hardly conscious. When the committee of the Christian Union of the University of Chicago called on her and asked her to found the Settlement in the stock yards district and she accepted her first desire was just to go and live in the neighborhood. She had no definitely organized program. She felt that she was simply coming into the neighborhood finding out what their needs were and then working to better those conditions.

There was already organized a young men’s club, a kindergarten and a day nursery—organized by the students from the University. Miss McDowell wanted a relationship established between the University and the Settlement and she lectured at times in the University. She was opposed to the slumming fad because it exploited the people and was just a fad. She was also opposed to a “cut and dried” organization, a formal organization such as the missions tried to impose upon the people. She wanted to discover the needs in the community and then help the neighborhood to remove them. The first clubs were civic. The first needs she saw were those of the filth and unsanitary conditions. She saw them and taught the people to see. As one great German butcher told her he never saw the scum in the open sewers until she taught him to see it. As she taught them to become dissatisfied with conditions and as they voluntarily came with complaints of their own which she did not have to teach them she gathered the facts and then took them with a group from her neighborhood to civic authorities and demanded and asked for reforms.

Boy’s groups came wanting clubs and a place to meet.

Her idea of a Settlement at the time, according to her own statement was “just to go and live” in the neighborhood but we have seen that her religious and democratic impulses directed by the patterns given her by her father’s experience in industry and politics and the patterns given her by Hull House and other settlement work organized at that time and previously, as well as the earliest work at this Settlement done before she came made her work her at the Settlement very definitely of a civic pattern and not so independent of everything except the objective facts of the needs as she conscientiously felt it to be.

A History of the Philosophy of the University of Chicago Settlement.—A history of the philosophy of the University of Chicago Settlement is essentially a history of Miss McDowell’s philosophy except for the last two or three years. For Miss McDowell distinctly dominated the situation at all times. The philosophy of residents has largely been of the same color as hers, partly by selection and partly by suggestion. Miss McDowell has a very “strong personality,” dominating and yet pleasing.

We have seen how Miss McDowell’s motives and desires were religious and democratic. There was a conflict of interests between her religious and democratic ideals and the ideals typical of Evanston and the capitalistic class. She wanted to settle this unrest in her own mind and the Philanthropic Committee of the Christian Union of the University of Chicago gave her a solution. A pattern or model was furnished here in her experiences with Hull House and other work in the slums and in her father’s plant where so called democratic principles were being put in practice. When she came to this neighborhood civic clubs had already been organized and she continued organizing them. She saw the filth and unsanitary conditions such as could be remedied by legislation and civic legislation was the answer to her needs. And civic clubs proved to be a means of pressure upon the legislators of the city.

When asked, she says she just wanted to come and be a helpful neighbor to the people. She encouraged people to come to her. They did come to her for all kinds of advice and help and she did her best to help them. Her primary interests and abilities, it was becoming to be, were to organize activities to the points where civic authorities could carry on the work.

Her philosophy or motives had not yet become clearly formulated or become conscious. A whole complex of Miss McDowell’s philosophy, beliefs, faith, wishes, ideals and ideas are centered around a democratic government. Everything in the Settlement which seems to her to be fundamental in value or to be the function or aim of the Settlement seem to be related to this complex.

Her creed is:

“We believe that God hath made of one blood all nations of men, brothers and sisters. We are citizens of the United States, and believe that our Flag stands for the good of all the people. We want to be true citizens of this our city, we therefore will show our love for her by our works.

Chicago does not ask us to die for her welfare she asks us to live for her good, and so to act that her government may be pure, her officers honest, and that every home within her boundaries shall be a place fit to grow the best kind of men and women to rule over her.


Mary E. McDowell”

She feels that Chicago is democracy in the making, that the Settlement should arouse interest in civic affairs, make good citizens of her neighbors and turn over to civic authorities the functions of the Settlement as soon as possible. The Settlement symbolizes American ideals. The Settlement should cooperate with civic authorities. On her faith in democracy and the “solidarity of humanity” is based her ideas of “living with the poor, being brothers to them, being neighborly, sharing one’s life, being of kinship, personal and sympathetic contact.”

To further democratic ideals the Settlement should point out to neighbors their needs (such as will make them good citizens). These needs should be served. The Settlement should serve the community as a whole. They should protect the individual, give him freedom of speech and assembly. Lastly they should accumulate facts such as will move civic authorities to act for reform or arouse public opinion so that pressure might be brought to bear upon the government. These facts are the basis of new “moral judgments” such as will better enable us to act wisely for the interest of these brother citizens.

What seems to be a very significant change in Miss McDowell’s emphasis in her work seems to be related to an experience which she writes of.

“At this psychological moment when we were disheartened the women of Chicago were given the right to vote and in a twinkling of an eye, the City Waste Committee of the Women’s City Club seized the situation for the head resident of the University of Chicago Settlement who had protested and scolded; who had pleaded and preached, used lecture and lantern slides for the making of public opinion, found herself at this strategic moment chairman of this City Waste Committee. This committee went before the Aldermanic Committees and the chairman discovered that she was a new creature facing a new aldermanic mind, for she found herself no longer just a philanthropic lady living in an unpleasant district, one who had always been treated graciously but inconsequentially but she was now a type of the thousands of women with a new power. She was no longer an individual pleader; but a representative of a city full of housekeeping citizens and that which women had been urging for the past years came to pass in a world.”

In this experience Miss McDowell seems to get a new conception of herself as a civic force by being in the government itself. The idea was not new in this experience by any means for some of her assistants had grown into civic positions carried on along with the Settlement work. It has been seen that Miss McDowell felt that the Settlement should do nothing that could be done by the civic organization and as fast as she could she turned over the work organized in the Settlement over to the government. Out of these experiences seems to come a belief in a larger movement which she expresses as follows:

“We have seen that the ‘isolated philanthropy of one generation becomes the organized social work of the next, and the public charge of the third.’  In the Public Welfare Department of our municipal government, which grew out of the social experiences of groups of neighborhood workers, we see future possibilities of far-reaching service to the city as a whole, and especially to the often forgotten individual.”

Miss McDowell has resigned as active head resident to become the head of the Welfare Department of the Municipal government, a step which would seem consistent with her philosophy. Perhaps her philosophy rises out of this and similar experiences. Anyway it would seem to indicate that the larger work of the Settlement is done, that the functions of the Settlement been turned over to the City. There still remains—she asserts—a very important function which she believes the city cannot fill and that is-living with the poor, being neighbors to them, understanding them and interpreting them to the university and the outside world. Nothing can ever be substituted for obtaining the values derived from living sympathetically with the poor and serving them as a good neighbor.

Miss McDowell’s interests are not limited to the Settlement or even to the Municipal Government by any means. She has been active in larger movements-still centered around politics however. It was one of these interests, namely peace or pacifism which gave her a bad name during the World War. She was accused of being pro-German. Friction arose between the Settlement League and herself and the leaders of the League worked to force her resignation. This probably had something to do to forward the tendency already suggested-that of leaving Settlement work for civic work where she believed the field was larger but the objectives the same.

Miss Longan succeeded Miss McDowell as head resident of the Settlement about two years ago. Miss Longan is considered very young (about 32). She is a product of the new school of social service. She has had a technical training and experience in Hull House in kindergarten work. She was called from Hull House to be head resident of the Settlement.

Miss Longan is a professional in the work although she has the spirit of the settlement also. Her ambitions for the Settlement are not so broad as those of Miss McDowell. She is not interested in civic work. Her interests are within the community on the one hand and her interests here are in harmony with a philosophy of social service which tends to be as large as society. This large interest does not run to politics but to social service. She wants society organized so as to reduce to a minimum social disorganization and conflict. This cannot be done through the settlement or an extension of the settlement, she feels, and for this reason the value of the settlement seems in the future to be largely restricted to its own community. Unless facts can be obtained and experience gained which may be used in scientific work to the advantage of whoever can profit by it. She has a strong interest in the university and its possibilities. She is a university graduate and is now taking advanced work and toward the end of this year (1925-1926) she will teach in the University. Her philosophy is not yet definitely formulated. She is working it out deliberately and looking for facts which will “settle” her. She feels that she has not yet found herself. She feels that perhaps the settlement is not the field in which she should work and that it is the university that has greater possibilities for “doing good.” She wishes that universities did not have to get so far away from the practical life-that research is necessary but that trained men should make an effort to give their findings to the public. She does not like research work but wants to do “practical work,” and yet she talks as though she were still struggling to find herself. She does not agree in policies with Miss McDowell and at times becomes discouraged about staying here.

She is technically trained and a skillful organizer. Her interests are in terms of case work, and the regular activities. She gives little time to irregular activities such as visiting in the neighborhood and being neighborly. She often grows impatient with those who come in seeking help though she conscientiously does her best to direct them to where they can help or helps them herself. The regular activity takes on much greater significance in that the work of the Settlement is directed to changing personalities through club techniques rather than in politically changing the environment. She wants to give the boys and girls of the community an experience in the “fuller life” from which she comes.

Under her influence the Settlement has become much more definitely organized. The residents fit into a rather formal organization, the Settlement work is handled in a business like way, careful and regular reports are made by departments and by the Settlement to the board of directors. An organization of community businessmen has been organized to participate in the support and direction of the Settlement.

The Political History of the Settlement-the Formal Organization.– The Philanthropic Committee of the Christian Union of the University of Chicago called upon Miss McDowell in 1894 to ask her to start the Settlement in the stock yards district. Two students of the economic or sociology department had come over previous to this time and made a preliminary study of the district. They had already organized some activities. There was a day nursery, a kindergarten and at least one club of young men. There was practically no financial support from the University and Miss McDowell started to work with very little equipment. In the third week of her residence here she spoke at the Hyde Park High School Sociological Club and the group later gave her a “kitchen shower” which supplied her kitchen. Miss McDowell and her helpers did their own work. The Settlement attracted four residents during the first year. The Settlement expanded to the extent of taking over some rooms across the street for a public hall and gymnasium. This gymnasium had to be given up and then a small deserted blacksmith shop was turned into a gymnasium and the (?) into a boys club room.

In 1898 President Harper, Edmund J. James and A.C. Miller signed an application for Charter for incorporation in the State. The Charter was granted the same month, January 1898.

 The Constitution of the University Settlement

Article I.

The name of this association shall be the University of Chicago Settlement.

Article II.

The object for which the association is formed is to provide a center for educational, religious, and philanthropic work.

Article III.

Section 1. The members of this association shall be the members of the present Board of Directors of the University of Chicago Settlement to the number of twelve, representing the original incorporators; or such persons as may hereafter be chosen in their places.

Sec. 2. Of these twelve, three shall be members ex officio, to wit: the President of the University, the Chaplain of the University, and the Head Resident of the Settlement. Of the nine remaining members, two shall be representatives nominated by the Settlement League and elected by the Settlement, and one representative nominated by the executive committee of the Christian Union of the University of Chicago, and elected by the Settlement. Members so chosen on nomination shall serve until their successors are elected.

The remaining six members shall be elected by the Settlement at its annual meetings, to serve for three years from the date of election. The Settlement, as at this date constituted, shall in such manner as it sees fit divide the present six elected members into three classes of two members each, of which classes one shall serve until the first Wednesday in January, 1901, one until the first Wednesday in January, 1902, and one until the first Wednesday in January, 1903. All members thereafter chosen at the annual meetings of the Settlement shall serve for three years from the date of their election, or until their successors are elected.

Sec. 3. Vacancies in the membership of the Settlement may be caused by death, resignation, or by unanimous vote of the members present at any regularly called meetings. Such vacancies occurring between two annual meetings may be filled by the election of members to serve out the unexpired terms of their predecessors.

Article IV.

Honorary Members.

All officers of contributing associations, and such persons as contribute not less than five dollars annually, shall be honorary members of the Settlement. They shall be entitled to receive, free of expenses, the publications of the Settlement, and shall be invited to attend the annual meeting.

Article V.


The Settlement shall hold its annual meeting on the first Wednesday in January, as provided by the charter. Other meetings shall be held at the call of the president, and at such times as the Settlement may hereafter specify. Notice of all meetings shall be given by the secretary five days in advance. Five members shall constitute a quorum.

Article VI.


Section 1. The officers of the Settlement shall be a president, a secretary, and a treasurer, elected for the term of one year at the annual meeting, on the first Wednesday in January. They shall perform the functions usually pertaining to their several offices, and such other duties as the Settlement may direct.

Sec. 2. The officers of the Settlement, together with the head resident, shall constitute an executive committee, which shall have powers as hereafter specified in the bylaws.

Article VII.

Relation to the University of Chicago.

The Settlement is, in origin, the Philanthropic Committee of the Christian Union of the University of Chicago, and in its incorporation in no way invalidated its obligation to act as such. Accordingly, in its membership shall always be included a representative nominated by the Christian Union, as provided in Article III. The officers of the Settlement shall hold themselves ready to make such report and furnish such information on the condition of the Settlement as may be desired by the executive committee of the Union.

Article VIII.


The constitution may be amended by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the Settlement at a meeting held for the purpose, notice of which has been given one month in advance.


A pamphlet titled The University of Chicago Settlement 1908 under the heading “The Relation of the Settlement to the University of Chicago” says:

“The official connection between the University and the Settlement is recognized in the appointment, by the trustees of the University, of the Head Resident as assistant in the Department of Sociology.

The financial responsibility for the Settlement rests with the University of Chicago Settlement Board, elected from members of the University, with two representatives from the University of Chicago League.”

“The membership of the University of Chicago Settlement League is made up of women members of University families, the object being to arouse to give it regular financial support through the University of Chicago Board, to study social conditions and to promote social intercourse. The League was organized in 1895.”

“The income of the Settlement is derived from voluntary subscriptions. The chief contributors are:

Members of the Faculty, the University of Chicago Settlement League, the basket collections taken at the Sunday religious services at the University of Chicago; the Settlement clubs under the leadership of the Settlement Council; some few outside subscribers.”

The work has been divided into departments—kindergarten, boys department, girls department, men, women, music, library, game room, clubs, gymnasium, manual training etc. Up until recently the organization has not been very strictly observed to the extent that a boy paid worker would not feel perfectly free to help with the girl’s work, the gymnasium instructor with the boy clubs, or girl’s work etc. There at present 8 paid workers who are responsible for certain duties to be performed within certain hours. There is a head of the boy’s department who has general supervision of all of the boy’s work. There are two paid assistants, one acting as gym instructor, the other as older boys club worker. The boys club worker also conducts 4 out of 6 of the Toy or Manual training classes. The head of the department as regular duties organizes younger boys clubs and conducts the 2 remaining Toy or Manual training classes and the game room. These duties are only partially determined by formal or written rules. The boys club worker spends one evening out of 4 given to the Settlement in the gym and he also assists regularly with the Friday evening “movie.”

There is a Head of the girl’s department with general duties in that work assigned to some extent to assistants whose duties are not rigidly demarcated.

One person who has been in the house for some 20 years has had the kindergarten and women’s clubs. Residents have found themselves dropping naturally into positions some because of talents, others because of needs and historical accidents. There is also a group of resident volunteers who assist in the work in various departments.

The schedule of all Settlement work is drawn up by the head resident in consultation with each member. In addition to the more formal activities just described there are those of “being on door” ready to direct or help or advise anyone who comes into the Settlement. The older and more experienced understand that whenever a problem case comes in the person on duty or especially familiar or can conveniently take the case shall do so.

There is a Resident’s Club organized for the control of residence within the Settlement. There is a formal organization, officers, meetings and rules or regulations. The dining room is run by this club rather than by the Settlement although the same officer collects the dues and keeps the books for both organizations. Room and board and dues are paid in one sum and the treasurer splits this between the Settlement and the Resident’s Club.

Miss McDowell as we have seen is opposed to having things “cut and dried.” She was not interested in a formal and efficient organization. The Resident Club and the formal organization of the Settlement were a part of her regime but since her resignation as head resident her successor has organized the Settlement a great deal more efficiently. The work of the departments and residents are very much more clearly demarcated so that a worker who once felt free to throw her energy into whatever happened to be paramount at the time now hesitates or refrains from doing anything out of the line specified duties in which it is expected everyone will cooperate. When the boy’s club worker was hired he was told that he would have certain general duties to perform in certain scheduled hours but that there would be time when he must expect to be “on call” for whatever there might come up. These could not be foreseen or scheduled.

It has been customary to make reports to the President of the University of Chicago. These reports were published from time to time in the President’s Report on the University Record. They are largely for purposes of encouraging further contribution. They usually give brief statements concerning the history of the Settlement, a listing of regular and irregular activities, a statement as to the numbers served, the conditions in the neighborhood and a financial report of receipts and expenditures. These reports seem to have been irregularly made and have no consistent form. Since the resignation of Miss McDowell her successor has standardized reports, reduced at largely to figured, absolute attendance and cases treated with averages, activities listed briefly with little indication of success or failure of activities  and the regular financial statements. There was very little in the older reports to indicate actual results of activities except the civic enterprises of the head resident which have been quite pretentious and far reaching in scope and results. There is little indication, however, of the influence upon the members of the community.

The activities of the Settlement have become more regularized, and formalized and more attention paid to the regular activities than to irregular activities such as neighborhood advice and assistance. This is to the emphasis upon organization (as opposed to neighborliness as seen by Miss McDowell) by the successor of Miss McDowell. Records are carefully kept and all of the materials on the Settlement collected and written from its beginning have been organized and filed so that they are more readily accessible; this has all been the result of Miss Longan’s interest.

This successor of Miss McDowell as head resident, Miss Longan, has again established a formal relationship between the Settlement and the University by becoming a member of the teaching staff in the Department of SSA in the University. In the early days Miss McDowell was on the staff of the University. Because of the divergence of interest and frictions the relationship had been discontinued until this year. I have been unable to get the story.

Miss Longan has organized the businessmen of the community to the support of the Settlement. There is now an organization of businessmen similar to the Women’s League and contributes to the boys work in the Settlement.

Informal Structure of the Settlement.

There is practically no evidence in the literature of the Settlement which would bear directly upon this subject or which throws light upon it. One can see, however, that Miss McDowell dominates the situation. And yet one might question this by saying that she is the only one who has written anything which has been preserved and since she was the head resident she preserved what she wanted. But interviews with Miss McDowell lead one to believe that she is a so called “strong personality” of great energy and charm and really dominates the situation. The only available material for this topic is a result of interviews with various residents and of observation during the five months I have been here.

When I came into the Settlement I was puzzled by what seemed to me to be some inconsistencies between what residents told me the Settlement was doing and what it seemed to me to be doing.

I was told that the Settlement gave the people of the neighborhood what they wanted and needed and yet it seemed to me that residents were giving them or consciously or unconsciously trying to give them what they must have gotten somewhere else—their own standards and ideas. It seemed to me (and possibly it seemed to the older residents when they first came) that my standards and ideas were much better than those of the neighborhood folk. The reason it seemed so, that I saw needs from my own viewpoint and selected those needs to work on, was that my religious training has taught me what to give to others.

I was also told that this was not an institution, that things were not “cut and dried,” but that the Settlement was free of rules and conventions, that it did what was best at the presentation of each problem. I found that the Settlement has a creed, that I ran into rules (unwritten rules) of behavior at every turn, that there was a very real informal structure, that techniques for handling problems had developed, become habits and dropped from the center of attention (i.e., some of them had). I found too that instead of neighborliness dominating the interest of residents, the greatest energy was devoted to the regularized activities, and primarily to clubs and that techniques here had also become routine to some extent—often residents have gone through the motions of conducting work without getting en rapport or in primary relationship with those with whom they were working. Quite often gestures have become ritualistic to the extent that original motives or techniques have been forgotten and they are done just because a stimulus sets them off.

I was told that all types of people could work here together, of all faiths and creeds and beliefs. This might be true but there is now in all essentials a very remarkable homogeneity of beliefs and faiths. They do not all belong to the same religious sect, some do not profess any but such beliefs and attitudes as would be evident in everyday life are remarkably compatible. There is a selection at the time of employment on the basis of one’s attitudes.

I was led to believe that activities are more or less spontaneous, that one is free to do as he pleases. This is relatively true (relative to the religious or church work with which I was once in contact) but I find that there is a distinct body of behavior patterns, group customs which one must observe—because one is expected to and one is noticed or “jars” someone else if one doesn’t. There is also a distinct pattern of the relationship of various residents.

Each resident, an individual, becomes a personality with a definite status in the group. The peculiarities of this or that person must be observed. This and that person must be paid attention to or fussed over. It takes some time to “get in on” the group and one is subject to suggestions and silent criticisms until one is familiar and conforms to the group customs. The first time I took a key off the board and put in my pocket instead of back on the board I was told that that was a penitentiary offense here. There are elaborate rules at the table, still more for regulating going about the house, conduct in one’s room downstairs etc.

The Residents-The Settlement is over thirty years old. Miss McDowell who was its founder still lives in the house and is loved (and perhaps hated) and respected. A body of traditions grown up about the house and neighborhood. The place on 47th where the Settlement opened is remembered and the fires over the feed store are told about time after time—of how Miss McDowell used to keep 20 stoves going over the feed store and her friends thinking she might be burned out some night raised money for the new building. The water tower ever the old glue factory is thought of as a monument to the first civic victory. The bath house is another and the bubbly creek story is told and retold. Within the house the residents of the fourth floor have by selection become a type and are called the “Attic Philosophers.” Gus’s place down at the corner holds stories and memories. Everyone hears the story of the flu epidemic and relief given by the Settlement. Miss McDowell keeps alive these memories.

The new member is gradually assimilated into this body of sentiments, memories, group ways and mores (group customs). He has experiences in these places and hears the stories connected with them until he (speaking of my own experience) feels a sentiment and attachment and a loyalty for the place and what it stands for.

Most of the social life of the residents is within its own group. This seems to be a tradition. I never thought of it as such until I thought of inviting school friends to my room and I immediately had the feeling that the house wouldn’t favor it—I hardly knew why until I rationalized it. But it is a very effective control.

The Residents–Miss McDowell still resides here and is the guiding spirit and the inspirational source of the house. She does no active work. She often expresses opinions, however, regarding policies and her will dominated Miss Longan who is acting head resident. Miss McDowell is loved and respected and perhaps hated. She presides over the dinner table in the evening like a queen in an informal mood and directs or monopolizes the conversation—telling of her experiences of the day with enthusiasm and a sense of humor which cheers one. She usually expresses her opinion very clearly and strongly even though it be at the sacrifice of consistency with what she may have said at some other time, on one or another public issue—peace, the world court, the league of nations (which is a particular favorite), prohibition, a letter from England asking about the packing house disposal plans etc. Her experiences are varied and interesting. She is very outspoken and has a temper so that if someone crosses her or is stupid she openly flays them. There are several timid residents who feel her dislike very much but who keep quiet. When there are guests Miss McDowell shows off, deep subjects are discussed and Miss McDowell’s views are expressed. Residents have accommodated themselves to the situation and have learned not to cross her. Strangers and new residents often fall into the error.

Miss Longan sits at the other end of the table rather quiet and yet she is the center of a circle of conversation. She is young and without great experience, a hard worker and a skillful organizer. Residents like Miss Longan because she is congenial and considerate, and a hard worker. Miss Longan is sincere and loyal. She is “buried” in routine work, gets very little opportunity to visit the homes in the neighborhood and to know the people intimately. She is also doing work at the University. Miss Longan gets very tired at times and at those times her disposition suffers.

Mrs. Thompson who takes Miss Longan’s place in the mornings when she is at the University is quite popular as a “good sport.” She does not take the Settlement very seriously or sentimentally. It seems to more a position for her. She has not a higher education. She has taken on some dignity of manner since she has been “in line” for head resident as she seems to be.

Mrs. Stocks is the Housekeeper. She reigns supreme in the kitchen and woe upon whoever gets caught “robbing the ice box.” She is quite old and very inquisitive to the point of irritation at times. Most residents think her queer but very nice and “really she gives wonderful meals for the price.” She has a reputation for getting all the information about anything she happens to be curious about no matter how personal it is.

Miss Stone has been here for perhaps 20 years in kindergarten and women’s club work. She is very much an “old maid” quite aristocratic. She likes to let one know of her long experience here by telling of incidents. She is apt to try to elaborate on Miss McDowell’s recollections, to miss the point and become befuddled with Miss McDowell’s criticism. Miss McDowell seems to have an antipathy of proper old maids.

Miss Hall is another puritan old maid who is quite deaf. It irritates one to have to talk to her. She has a reputation for liking to talk. Miss Hall cannot do much about the house so the job of running the Friday evening movies is “shoved off” on her.

Mrs. Abbot is another one of the older group, mother of a couple of college students, interested in college life and not very energetic in Settlement work though doing much in a matter of fact way.

Miss Fenner is the pun artist of the “family” and the unofficial “bouncer.” Any related form of wit-word juggling etc. recalls Miss Fenner.

Miss Dennis, who has charge of the boy’s work has had ten years experience in the house. She knows the neighborhood and its people better than anyone else. She likes to tell of her experience. Her stories have emotional appeal and she has an endless number of them. But if you want to know anything about anybody in the neighborhood she is the one to go to. She knows their life histories for at least ten years back or as long as they have been here. She is young in appearance, very neat and gives one the impression of having been a tomboy. She likes to be thought of as being able to handle men’s work. I was told that if I wanted to get along with her I must pay a lot of attention to her and make a fuss over her. She has no special training or education. Her favorite work is with the younger boy.

Miss Strewing, of the younger set, has come out of religious and church work. She is sincere and earnest but untrained. She is popular with the girls and quite successful. She is too busy generally for much social life. She has charge of the girl’s work.

Miss McFarland is a very eccentric “old maid,” quite temperamental, plays the violin, picks up every new religious sect idea that comes along but is very “nice.” She is known to have a queer philosophy.

Miss Beebe, another musician, is extremely timid and sensitive. She keeps in the background and lets the bolder spirits ride over her rough shod. She apologizes for herself.

Mr. Knox, the gym instructor is called “sunshine” because he is always full of “pep” and cheerful. He is a sophomore in the University-earnest and sincere.

There are other characters in the house. Grace LaLonde, Miss Michener, Miss Roberts (from Boston), Miss Light, my wife and I of the younger set, including also Mr. Knox. There is Hattie, the fat congenial colored cook, Della, Mrs. Kolopka who is hired to “sit on the door” every morning. Helen who washed the dishes and cleans house, Anna, the colored religious enthusiast who sings at her work about the house, strange weird spirituals or church hymns. Then there is Dr. Stocks who once ran the bus and who is now a practicing physician and drops in occasionally. He is noisy, congenial, a lot of fun. He likes bridge and smokes a great many cigarettes. Then there are the volunteers who come over to work.

There are a number of cliques in the house. Mr. Knox, Miss LaLonde, my wife and I often get together for cards or a trip to Gus’ for refreshments etc. Miss Michener and her roommate and Miss Light and Miss Strewing are found together quite often. The bridge players of the house-Miss Abbot, Dr. Stocks, Miss Dennis, and Miss Fenner spend hours at the card table. Miss Beebe and Miss McFarland and sometimes my wife find a common interest in music.

The Settlement as an Institution.

The Settlement was organized by a University philanthropic group for the purpose of serving the poor. There was also a motive of using the Settlement for their students as a laboratory. The service to be rendered was not the conventional acme of religious doctrine characteristic of the mission. It was a complex of standards, ideals, ideas, attitudes and wishes that was to be given to these poor people. These things to be contributed were not definitely formulated nor have they ever been. I have had great difficulty in getting any resident to rationalize or formulate the things they are trying to give to these people. They say their work is religious and Miss McDowell has said that it is religious and their service is based on the contribution of the ideals of the personnel and this is essentially religious. The Settlement is, then, primarily an organ for control—religious in the sense that is partly at least to control individuals or personalities.

On the other hand the Settlement is an organ for political control for it attempts or has attempted in the past to control the environment of the community through civic legislation.

These motives which are characteristic of an institution were present from the beginning. Beside these there developed with repetition of experience group habits, sentiments associated with places, tradition in other words. A formal organization developed from the beginning. An informal organization as soon as residents became accommodated to the situation and to each other so that their relations were of the nature of habit rather than conscious attention requiring activity. These qualities are also characteristic of an institution.

Furthermore the people of the community became to expect certain things of the Settlement and we have seen how from the first the Settlement had a sense of responsibility toward the people they hope to serve or control. The Settlement residents felt that they must “keep their ear to the ground” for neighborhood needs and satisfy those needs if possible. This mutual responsibility is also characteristic of an institution. Some sense of responsibility of the Settlement to its patrons existed from the beginning but the responsibility of patrons to the Settlement did not develop until after they learned the Settlement was doing things and came to expect it to do certain things.

The Settlement has a double responsibility. It purposes to give to the upper classes who organize it an understanding of the class which it serves and it purposes to serve the poor. A mission does not possess this double responsibility. The reason is the traditional association of the Settlement to the University. The Settlement gave up the idea of being a laboratory for the University and satisfies their obligation to their foster class by interpreting the lower class to the upper, not for objective scientific reasons but to encourage them to give more money and more assistance to the support of the work. This is what is meant when it is said that the Settlement has as one important object the creating of a new moral judgment.

The Settlement as an institution was not originally an expression of the wishes of the community in which it works but of the people it leaves and who support it. It does however attempt to change the people and environment of the community so that its wishes become expressed in the Settlement. In this process the Settlement become something somewhat different. There is a compromise between the two sets of wishes.

Source: Burgess, Ernest. Papers, [Box 139, Folder 10], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.










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