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Elliot, John Lovejoy

in: People

John Lovejoy Elliot  (December 2, 1868—April 12, 1942):  Founder of Hudson Guild Settlement House and Ethical Culture Society Leader.


John Lovejoy Elliot was born in Princeton, Illinois, the son of Isaac Elliot and Elizabeth (nee  Denham) Lovejoy.  He attended Cornell University, where he was elected as class president.  In 1889 he attended an event and heard a speech by Dr. Felix Adler.  Elliot was so motivated by Dr. Adler that Ethical Culture became  Elliot’s spiritual home for the remainder of his life. Ethical Culture is premised on the idea that honoring and living in accordance with ethical principles is central to what it takes to live meaningful and fulfilling lives, and to creating a world that is good for all. Practitioners of Ethical Culture focus on supporting one another in becoming better people, and on doing good in the world.

The local Ethical Societies all adopted the same statement of principles:

John Lovejoy Elliot
John Lovejoy Elliot
Photo: Hudson Guild
  • The belief that morality is independent of theology;
  • The affirmation that new moral problems have arisen in modern industrial society which have not been adequately dealt with by the world’s religions;
  • The duty to engage in philanthropy in the advancement of morality;
  • The belief that self-reform should go in lock step with social reform;
  • The establishment of republican rather than monarchical governance of Ethical societies
  • The agreement that educating the young is the most important aim.

Under the auspices of the Society, Elliot was sent to the University of Halle in Germany where he received a Ph.D.   Upon his return, Elliot became a teacher of ethics in the Ethical Culture School.

Elliott was also influenced by what he learned about the settlement movement and his first venture was organizing the “Hurly Burlies,” a social and recreation club for young men in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. Over the next few years, Elliott established numerous clubs and programs for other groups, including young boys and girls, working women, and families. In 1897, Elliott’s various programs were merged to become the Hudson Guild, which provided a platform to organize residents to improve neighborhood living conditions.

Among the Guild’s early advocacy successes were lobbying for the New York Tenement Act in 1901, the creation of Chelsea Park, the first recreational space in the area in 1907, and the approval of new, low-cost, city-funded housing in Chelsea in 1938. At the same time, the Guild offered a broad range of direct programming and services to Chelsea residents, opening the first free kindergarten in New York City in 1897, starting the first Summer Play School in the city in 1917, opening dental, prenatal, and well-baby clinics in 1919-1921.

Elliot soon developed many friends active in the settlement movement and social reform: Jane Addams, Paul Kellogg, Lillian Wald, Helen Hall and Mary Kingsbury Simkovitch.  He participated in

organizing the National Federation of Settlements (NFS) and he served as President of NFS from 1919-1923.  Elliot remained active until he was hospitalized and died on April 12, 1942.


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How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Social Welfare History Project (2011). John Lovejoy Eliot (December 2, 1868 – April 12, 1942): Founder of Hudson Guild Settlement House and ethical society leader. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from