The settlement house, an approach to social reform with roots in the late 19th century and the Progressive Movement, was a method for serving the poor in urban areas by living among them and serving them directly. As the residents of settlement houses learned effective methods of helping, they then worked to transfer long-term responsibility for the programs to government agencies. Settlement house workers, in their work to find more effective solutions to poverty and injustice, also pioneered the profession of social work.
The term "neighborhood center" (or in British English, Neighbourhood Centre) is often used today for similar institutions, as the early tradition of "residents" settling in the neighborhood has given way to professionalized social work.
The first settlement house was Toynbee Hall in London, founded in 1883. The first American settlement house was The Neighborhood Guild (later the University Settlement), founded by Stanton Coit, begun in 1886.
The best-known settlement house is perhaps Hull House in Chicago, founded in 1889 by Jane Addams with her friend Ellen Starr. Lillian Wald and the Henry Street Settlement in New York is also well known. Other settlement houses, like Both of these houses were staffed primarily by women, and both resulted in many reforms with long-lasting effect and many programs that exist today. Other individuals known as settlement house leaders include John Lovejoy Elliott and Mary Simkhovitch.
Some Women of the Settlement House Movement:
- Jane Addams
- Sophonisba Breckenridge
- Florence Kelley
- Mary McDowell
- Frances Perkins and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
- Eleanor Roosevelt - the early years
Settlement Houses Elsewhere on the Web:
- American Women's History Settlement Houses
- United Neighborhood Houses - About UNH - this brief history from a New York coalition of settlement houses includes a 1908 photograph of many of the early settlement house workers.
- The Miseries - a history of the settlement movement, focusing on the two miseries: poverty plus restricted opportunities for the new class of college-educated women
- Settlement Houses: Old Idea in New Form Builds Communities