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Position of United Neighborhood Houses on Issues

Statements by the United Neighborhood Houses of New York

Editor’s note: The following are the first and third of three statements issued by the United Neighborhood Houses of New York during the period after World War I.


The Settlements stand for service through neighborhood cooperation. They have sought, for many years, to interpret the best in America to their foreign neighbors, and to cultivate for America all that those neighbors have brought to her of value. Settlements have steadily worked to raise the ideals of life and to deepen spiritual values. They have served as interpreters between classes. They differ greatly in opinion and method; however, they unite in sympathy and common aims. They are working always for progress by orderly process of law and for an America in which all classes shall live and work in concord.


In response to questions as to the attitude of the United Neighborhood Houses on Organized Charity, Industry and Americanization, the member Houses submited the following:


We recognize organized charity as temporarily helpful and necessary. But we recognize also that private philanthropy must and should give way to a community self help. TO that end, we dedicate our energies to replacing philanthropic agencies by public instruments, recognized by the people as creations of their own to solve their own difficulties.


We recognize that the present relationship of employer and employee is unsatisfactory and readjuctment must take place. Neither capital nor labor should possess arbitrary and autocratic control of industry. The present economic strife must give way to an orderly democratization of industry. The conditions of production should be such as to induce the worker to contribute to that production in the largest measure possible. It should insure to him and his family a proper share in the fruit of his labor. It must further secure to his children the same opportunities for their full share of happiness and for the development of their minds and bodies, as for the children of other classes. Such reorganization, further, must give full protection to legitimate capital and to the brains and talents required in conducting business.

On the other hand, we consider all efforts to minimize individual efficiency or to reduce the possible maximum of production of a country as destructive and inimical to the best interest both of the workers and of society.

The present exigencies of the entire world make wanton attempts on the part of either capital or labor to hold back or reduce production a crime against civilization.


The Settlements believe firmly in American governmental ideals and in the 34 years since their founding, have been teaching a respect for them that is based on understanding. Through the example of the club work, there has grown up a conception of the orderly process of government that is far more impressive than any teaching by precept could possibly be. Rule by majority, the right of the minority to be heard, the evolutionary process of change, as taught and practiced in the clubs, becomes woven into the life and spirit of the young men and women who grow up in the Settlements. They gain a power to think for themselves that is the basis of a secure and intelligent democracy. The Settlements, having practiced rule by majority for as many years, have, in the firmest manner, shown their condemnation of class or partisan rule.

This is the process of Americanization. It means not only a better understanding of America by the immigrant but also a better understanding of the immigrant, in all his resources and his weakness, by America. This understanding must be as deep as friendship itself, and cannot be hastily reached by ready-made methods. It requires time. Americanization that expresses the best in our national life, involves the securing for the immigrant good working conditions, fair wages, decent housing, health protection and recreational opportunity; leisure to learn, to know, understand, and love our institutions. It means also a desire, on our part, to preserve and perfect all historical cultural and other contributions which our new citizens may have to make. It is idle to talk of “citizenship classes,” “Speak English” drives, or other mechanical devices, unless these efforts are vitalized by the determination of Americans to welcome the newcomer with the offer of justice and opportunity.

Such a course makes of men and women good neighbors and responsible citizens. It puts life in a community on a family basis. It brings government very near and makes of it a living, understandable thing, friendly, and daily serviceable to the thousand needs of our people.

The United Neighborhood Houses of N.Y.

This work may also be read through the Internet Archive.

Source: Holden, A.C. (1922). The Settlement Idea; a Vision of Social Justice.  New York: Macmillan.

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