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Ellen Gates Starr

Ellen Gates Starr


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Ellen Gates Starr was born in Laona, Illinois, in 1859. Starr was a student at the Rockford Female Seminary (1877-78) where she met Jane Addams. Starr taught for ten years in Chicago before joining Addams in 1888 of a tour of Europe. While in London they visited Toynbee Hall. Inspired by the success of this project, they became determined to establish a similar social settlement in Chicago.

When Addams and Starr returned to Chicago in 1889, they purchased a large dilapidated mansion formerly owned by the wealthy businessman, Charles J. Hull. Hull House was opened as a kindergarten but soon expanded to include a day nursery, an infancy care centre and further education classes. Starr and Addams were later joined by other social reformers such as Edith Abbott, Grace Abbott, Florence Kelley, Julia Lathrop, Alice Hamilton, Mary McDowell, Alzina Stevens and Sophonisba Breckinridge at the settlement.

As well as teaching at Hull House Starr was active in the campaign to reform child labour laws and industrial working conditions in Chicago. Starr, a member of the Women's Trade Union League, she helped organize striking garment workers in 1896, 1910 and 1915.

In 1930 Ellen Gates Starr retired to a Roman Catholic convent in Suffern, New York County, where she died on 10th February, 1940.

Miss Jane Addams and Miss Ellen Starr got tired of keeping their culture, and wealth, and social capacity to themselves. These young women believe that all luxury is right that can be shared. They have taken their books, pictures, learning, gentle manner, esthetic taste, to South Halsted Street.

Monday afternoon a club of young women meets and read Romola, aided by pictures of Florence, contemporary art, and lectures by Miss Starr on Florentine artists.

There is a wide, bright livery stable at No. 331 South Halsted Street that could be secured for a moderate rental. Skylights could be put in and the brick walls decorated. Then it could be be a gallery for loan exhibits, a studio for instruction, a dance-hall.

"Why not?" says Miss Starr. "The worst thing about these crowded districts is the fact of there being no private places for dancing. Young people will dance. These people cannot do it in private houses - hence public balls. Why not a dance where the amusement could be indulged in innocently and without danger?"

The article in the Chicago Tribune (about Hull House) was disgustingly vulgar and horrid. There were some consolations - she didn't call the neighborhood "slums". The worst thing was her saying at the end, of the college extension it will be greater than any charity. Why she wanted to slap it in the face by comparing it with a charity, I can't grasp.

Now comes the great item of news. Miss Culver has given us the house rent free for four years, amounting to $2800 and we have decided to call the house Hull House.

Miss Starr I quickly learned to love dearly. She had a sense of humour unequaled by anyone I'd ever known. At my first appearance in Hull House, she seemed to sense my defiance and laughed. I was sensitive and I gave her a cold stare.

When I went to live in Hull House I tried to ignore Miss Starr, but she came to me, and after we talked things over, we became friends. It was a great privilege to have her as a friend. She was like an older sister. When I made mistakes, she "took me in hand," and she wasn't afraid to tell me just what she thought.


Today in women’s history: Hull House co-founder Ellen Starr born

Ellen Gates Starr was born in Laona, Ill., on March 19, 1859. She was a student at the Rockford Female Seminary (1877-78), where she met Jane Addams their friendship lasted many years. Some historians have suggested that Starr was a lesbian who had a relationship with Addams. Starr taught for ten years in Chicago and Mount Morris, Ill., before joining Addams in 1888 for a tour of Europe. While in London, they were inspired by the success of the English Settlement movement and became determined to establish a similar social settlement in Chicago, where Starr had been teaching.

They found an old mansion that had become used for storage, originally owned by the Hull family – thus, Hull House. They took up residence on September 18, 1889, and began “settling” in with the neighbors, to experiment with how to best serve the people there, mostly poor and working class families.

Starr led reading groups and lectures, on the principle that education would help uplift the poor and those who worked at low wages. She taught labor reform ideas, but also literature and art. She organized art exhibits. In 1894, she founded the Chicago Public School Art Society to get art into public school classrooms. She traveled to London to learn bookbinding, becoming an advocate for the handicrafts as a source of pride and meaning. She tried to open a bookbindery at Hull House, but it was one of the failed experiments.

Starr also read such authors as Charles Dickens and John Ruskin, and began shaping her own ideas about labor and other social reforms. She became more involved in labor issues in the area, involving immigrants, child labor and safety in the factories and sweatshops in the neighborhood.

In 1896, Starr joined the garment workers’ strike in support of the workers. She was a founding member of the Chicago chapter of the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) in 1904. In that organization, she, like many other educated women, worked in solidarity with the often-uneducated women factory workers, supporting their strikes, helping them file complaints, raising funds for food and milk, writing articles and otherwise publicizing their conditions to the wider world.

In 1914, in a strike against Henrici Restaurant, Starr was among those arrested for disorderly conduct. She was charged with interfering with a police officer, who claimed she had used violence against him and “tried to frighten him” by telling him to “leave them girls be!” She, a frail woman of at best a hundred pounds, did not look to those in court like someone who could frighten a policeman from his duties, and she was acquitted.

Starr joined the Socialist Party in 1911 and was a candidate in the 19 th ward for the alderman’s seat on the Socialist ticket. As a woman and a Socialist, she did not expect to win, but used her campaign to draw connections between her Christianity and Socialism, and to advocate for more fair working conditions and treatment of all. She was active with the Socialists until 1928.

Addams and Starr disagreed about religion, as Starr moved from her Unitarian roots in a spiritual journey that took her to conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1920.


Starr, Ellen Gates (1859–1940)

American settlement house worker and labor supporter who co-founded Hull House. Born in Laona, Illinois, on March 19, 1859 died in Suffern, New York, on February 10, 1940 third of four children of Caleb Allen Starr and Susan (Gates) Starr niece of Eliza Allen Starr (1824–1901) attended Rockford (Ill.) Seminary, 1877 never married no children.

When one thinks of Hull House, the preeminent American settlement house which opened its doors in Chicago in 1889, one thinks of its founder Jane Addams . Yet, alongside Addams for the first 20 years was Ellen Gates Starr. The two had met while attending Rockford Seminary during the late 1870s. Unlike her wealthier friend Addams, Starr could only afford to attend the seminary for one year before finding work as a teacher. Beginning in 1879, she taught for several years at the exclusive Miss Kirkland's School for Girls in Chicago. Meanwhile, Addams was still in search of meaningful work. In 1888, while traveling together in Europe, Addams and Starr decided to open a settlement house, patterned after London's Toynbee Hall. In 1889, using Addams' money and donations from the parents of Starr's pupils, the two bought a run-down mansion on Chicago's West Side.

During the 1890s, Hull House was the center of Chicago social and labor reform. While Jane Addams concentrated on the overall management, and labor organizers such as Mary Kenney O'Sullivan and social reformers such as Florence Kelley lived and worked out of the settlement, Ellen Gates Starr focused on bringing art to the impoverished immigrants of the neighbor. She organized reading clubs and art history classes as well as classes in bookbinding as an art. However, as the decade continued, Starr became increasingly involved in labor organizing, realizing the futility of art appreciation if one were hungry from lack of work at other than subsistence wages. In 1896, she participated in her first strike, assisting Chicago women textile workers. Starr joined the Women's Trade Union League in 1903 and took part in several more strikes, including a 1914 strike of Chicago waitresses during which she was arrested.

Throughout this period, Starr considered herself a Christian Socialist and by 1916, when she ran unsuccessfully for alderman, she was a member of the Socialist Party. However, she had long been in search of a deeper spiritual meaning to her life. After her intense relationship with Addams ended in the early 1890s, when Addams began what would be a 40-year partnership with Mary Rozet Smith , Starr spent years looking for a greater purpose. In 1920, she found that purpose when she joined the Roman Catholic Church. In 1929, after back surgery left her paralyzed from the waist down, Starr took up residence at the Convent of the Holy Child in Suffern, New York. She died shortly before her 81st birthday and was buried in the convent where she ended her spiritual quest.


Ellen Gates Starr Net Worth

Estimated Net Worth: $1-2 Million

Ellen Gates Starr net worth has been growing significantly. Ellen Gates Starr’s most of wealth comes from being a successful Civil Rights Leader. We have estimated Ellen's net worth, money, salary, income, and assets.

Net Worth$1-2 Million
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Ellen Gates Starr

How did an activist, labor organiser, teacher, and artist, especially one with a name like Ellen Gates Starr (1859-1940), manage to escape everlasting renown in Chicago history? She made headlines in her own day she ran for political office, was arrested on the picket line, was a bookbinder, and co-founded some of Chicago’s most important organizations and institutions, including Hull House(1889) and the Chicago chapter of the Arts and Crafts Society (1897). Her life exemplifies a struggle to balance effective teaching, activism, and art practice. Starr was both deeply committed to her community, and equally unafraid to criticize it, and while her strategies for social justice changed through the years, she never stopped teaching. Ellen Gates Starr met and became close friends withJane Addams during the one year, 1877, in which Starr could afford to attend Rockford Seminary College in Illinois. She taught Literature and Art History at Miss Kirkland’s School for girls in Chicago for ten years before accompanying Addams on her groundbreaking trip to Europe in 1888. In London they visited Toynbee Hall, a social settlement founded in reaction to problems created by urbanization, industrialization and inadequate conditions for immigrants. Toynbee Hall was an important part of the Arts and Crafts movement in which the members combated the separation of art from life and labor. Both Addams and Starr were deeply impressed on their visit to the settlement and founded Hull House, one of the first settlement houses in the US, on its example.

Ellen Gates Starr continued to teach at Hull House, presenting lectures and organizing reading groups as part of her work establishing young women’s labor unions, such as the Dorcas Federal Labour Union. Mary Jo Deegan and Ana-Maria Whal maintain in On Art, Labor, and Religion: Ellen Gates Starr that the Chicago chapter of the Arts and Crafts Society (CACS) stemmed from the organisation of this labour union and the Easter Art exhibits at Hull House. Ellen Gates Starr and George Mortimer Wendel Twose founded the CACS in 1897. The activities of the CACS included exhibitions, lectures, as well as evening classes for children and adults in woodworking, ceramics and metalsmithing. Bruce Kahler writes that the Hull House’s (This is confusing, is he talking about the hull house? Should not call it “the settlement” all of a sudden, or is he talking about the London settlement?) involvement with the Arts and Crafts led, in November 1900, to the establishment of its highly successful Labor Museum. In the museum members of the immigrant population displayed the hand working skills they had brought with them to Chicago. Children were then able to see their parents in an entirely different context than those of the degrading conditions that most of them, including the children, worked and lived in everyday.

The formation of the CACS marked a decidedly different attitude toward the current role of art education at Hull House. Before this, both Addams and Starr, in line with most cultural philanthropists at the time, believed that exposure to great art alone was enough to redeem the middle class and elevate the lower classes. Starr founded the Chicago Public School Art Society (CPSAS) in 1894, modeled on the efforts of T.C. Horsfall in Britain. The aim of the society was to promote art as a part of the life and the environment of public schools. This included everything from painting the walls of classrooms an agreeable color to providing these same rooms with good prints and original works of art. In 1886, Starr writes, an “investigation revealed that an incredible percentage of the children in the schools of one of our cities had never seen a cow, and did not know what trees were.” She wonders how children could truly learn and understand literature or science, or even to become human (Did she really say this? Sounds a bit elitist), when their lives were devoid of color, nature, great architecture, and public art. The members of the CPSAS, she explains, hoped “that a slender link may thus be formed between these lives and the beautiful, and that it may lead a few, perhaps many, to try themselves to strengthen it.”

Ellen Gates Starr continued to bring art into the lives of others by becoming an artist herself. In 1898, not long after the formation of the CACS, she traveled to England and studied bookbinding with T.J. Cobden-Sanderson at Doves Bindery. She explains that could no longer enjoy interpreting the art of the past when the conditions for the creation of art in the present were available only to the upper and middle classes “Into the prison-houses of earth, its sweat shops and underground lodging houses, art cannot follow.” Starr believed, as did John Ruskin and William Morris, that art was the by-product of work done in freedom and pleasure, “Every man working in the joy of his heart is, in some measure, an artist.” Starr followed the more radical Arts and Crafts example by devoting herself to handcraft, while working for political change in which everyone in society would have joy in his or her labor. Starr taught apprentices at Hull House and used her bookbinding to support the work she did as a labor supporter and organizer. She was an integral part of the garment workers’ strikes of 1910 that began at Hart, Schaffner and Marx’s shop 5 on 1922 S. Halsted Street. She was also integral to the garment workers’ strike of 1915, and was arrested several times outside of Henrici’srestaurant supporting the waitress’s strike of 1913. This site is still a destination for protesters, as theDaley Center now stands where the restaurant used to be.

Starr often struggled with her dual role as artisan and activist and had critical insight into the various institutions of which she was such an integral part. She criticized the labor unions for being too narrow, too satisfied with small gains for too few people “At its best the trade union is inadequate.” She saw settlement work as work for lasting change in which “sending little knots of children for country outings, or teaching them to hoard pennies, or mould clay—admirable as these objects are…will not need to trouble us…. Art must come back to life through the channel of daily occupation. All life must be redeemed.”


Looking Back: Ellen Gates Starr, an overlooked public servant

Although Jane Addams and her friend, Ellen Gates Starr, could be considered a case of "opposites attracting," together they managed to found one of the first settlements in the country, Hull-House, in Chicago. But one achieved world fame, and the other, not so much.

Both women were raised in small Illinois towns, Jane of course in Cedarville, and Starr, in Durand. It is amazing that these two together were able to pool their resources and plunge into that huge project in a place like Chicago in the year 1889. It was Addams' money, but it took the energy and ingenuity of both. Jane's father, John Addams, owned a profitable mill in the village of Cedarville and became a state legislator and a person of distinction in Stephenson County.

For several weeks we have been discovering what made Jane Addams tick. This week we'll explore who Starr really was and what her social contributions were. Our source is a book titled, "Ellen Gates Starr, Her Later Years," by Suellen Hoy, published in 2010 by the Chicago History Museum. The author points out that "Addams's international reputation and Starr's unrecognized legacy suggest the differences between these women, even during the years when they were closely bound by mutual interests and affection."

Both women grew up in rural communities in northern Illinois and both of their families valued education.

Starr was the third of four children born to Caleb Allen Starr and Susan Gates Childs Starr, who had come to northern Illinois in 1855 from Massachusetts. Ellen Starr attended a one-room country school for her elementary grades and then graduated from high school in nearby Durand. Addams and Starr met and became friends when both were students at Rockford Female Seminary. "Due to financial pressures, Starr left school after a year and took a teaching job in Mount Morris." Shortly thereafter, states the text, "Starr's parents sold the family farm and moved to Durand, where her father bought a pharmacy and went into business as a druggist."

Like Addams, Starr "was very much her father's daughter and as a child enjoyed their relationship. Later in life she recognized the profound influence of his public spirit, socialist principles, and reformer beliefs."

In 1879, Starr left the farm towns of northern Illinois to begin a teaching career in Chicago. She soon secured a full-time position at the prestigious Miss Kirkland's School for Girls on the city's north side, the biography states. She taught a variety of subjects "including her own specialties of art history, art appreciation and drawing."

During this time Starr and Addams maintained their friendship through letters and visits. Addams, meanwhile finished college in Rockford and in 1885 took a trip to Europe, financed by her parents.

"Two years later," we're told, "Addams invited Starr on a second European trip, offering to help pay her expenses. The seven-month tour proved pivotal in the lives of both women." They returned with the idea they would open a settlement for the city's poor. The author acknowledges that Addams was the primary force behind the plan, but claims "that without Starr's persistent prodding and lively encouragement, it is doubtful that Addams would have done what was necessary to realize their dream. Starr's many contacts, largely the prominent parents of the Kirkland students, proved useful. Thus, while she may have deferred to Addams even as they launched their project, Starr was not a silent partner."

Interesting is the following paragraph: "An avid participant in the burgeoning Arts and Crafts movement, Starr's mind was influenced by the writings of the English critics and craftsmen. . The movement was not entirely aesthetic and romantic, attempting to restore a simple world of craftsmanship and celebrating the artistic and religious crations of the Middle Ages. It was also a protest against materialism, against the apparent heartlessness and indifference to any values but efficiency and moneymaking, which characterized the heroes of the new industrial world."

"Yet Starr was not a romantic rebel," the author states, "a bohemian artiste concerned only with the health of her soul, nor was she one to shrink from hard work or controversy." The author had testimony from some of the professional workers at Hull-House that Starr expressed her opinions freely often appearing brusque and intimidating or difficult, but they considered her "hilariously witty with a sense of humor unequaled by anyone" and "exceptionally generous."

However, after years of teaching, Starr decided to leave that profession and take up a craft in which "instead of talking about art . it would be a great deal better to make something myself ."

A lover of books, Starr went to London where she trained and worked in bookbinding. With financial help from a lifelong friend, Starr lived, learned and worked at a bindery in London. Eventually, Starr returned to Hull-House where she opened a bindery and taught the craft to small select classes. She earned a good share of her living that way until closing the bindery in the 1920s.

But bookbinding was not all that Starr was doing. She became a formidable activist in labor issues. The practices of hiring children in factories was a thorn in her side. She was known to deliver speeches for those causes and march in picket lines. She was even arrested in 1914 for her part in a restaurant workers' strike.

Starr joined the Socialist party in 1916. Throughout those years, along with her association with Hull-House, Starr became an activist in the labor issues of the nation. Shocked by the child labor conditions, as well as various other labor issues, she gave speeches, joined picket lines and furnished food and clothing for the picketers. So her life, like her friend Addams's, was filled with serving whom she thought mistreated.

Starr was able to pay occasional visits to Hull-House until 1928 when an operation to remove a spinal abscess left her paralyzed from the waist down. She settled in at Holy Cross convent in Suffern, New York, where she remained until her death in 1940. She was buried at the convent. Historians differ as to whether Starr converted to Catholicism, but the author of the Starr biography states she did not. There is no question, however, as to her dedication toward serving the underprivileged.

Yes, Starr, like her friend Addams, was giving all she had for the causes in which she believed, and history should certainly recognize that.


Ellen Gates Starr

Ellen Gates Starr (March 19, 1859, near Laona, Illinois – February 10, 1940, in Suffern, New York) was an American social reformer and activist.

Ellen Starr was born in Laona, Illinois. She was a student at the Rockford Female Seminary (1877�), where she met Jane Addams their friendship lasted many years, although some historians have suggested that Starr was a lesbian who had a particularly close relationship with Addams. Starr taught for ten years in Chicago before joining Addams in 1888 for a tour of Europe. While in London, they were inspired by the success of the English Settlement movement and became determined to establish a similar social settlement in Chicago.

They returned to Chicago and co-founded Hull House as a kindergarten and then a day nursery, an infancy care centre, and a center for continuing education for adults. Starr was also active in the campaign to reform child labor laws and industrial working conditions in Chicago. She was a member of the Women's Trade Union League and helped organize striking garment workers in 1896, 1910, and 1915. However, by belief she was firmly anti-industrialisation, idealizing the guild system of the Middle Ages and later the Arts and Crafts Movement. She taught such writers as Shakespeare, Dante and Robert Browning in the slums of Chicago to children who could not afford school education. She practiced her preachings about community labour to the extent of traveling to Britain to learn bookbinding.She was arrested at a restaurant strike.

Although Starr possessed an interest in Roman Catholicism for many years, it was only when she believed the Church was seriously teaching social justice that she converted in 1920. Even after that, her work in campaigns against child labour met with much opposition from inside the Church. In 1931, seriously ill, Ellen Gates Starr retired to a Roman Catholic convent in Suffern, New York, where she died on February 10, 1940. She was cared for by the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, but she was not a member of their religious community (or any other).

Ellen Gates Starr was born near Laona, Illinois, the third of four children of Caleb Allen Starr and Susan Childs Gates Starr. She attended local schools and enrolled at Rockford Seminary, Rockford, Illinois, in 1877. She spent only one year at Rockford because her father could not afford the tuition. She taught at a country school in Mount Morris, Illinois, and in 1879 accepted a position at Miss Kirkland's School for Girls in Chicago where she taught a variety of subjects. Although religion was not part of her early upbringing, she spent much of her life in search of religious truth. She was greatly influenced by her aunt, Eliza Allen Starr, a devout Roman Catholic convert, writer, and lecturer. In 1884 Ellen joined the Episcopal Church.

Ellen Starr and a trusted friend Jane Addams got together as friends when Ellen was a teacher. A female love of Starr's had moved away and she was heartbroken. She wrote to Jane, "The first real experience I ever had in my life of any real pain in parting, came with separating from her. I don't speak of it because people don't understand it. People would understand if it were a man." Soon Addams would become the object of Starr's affection. It is not clear whether Jane returned the affection.


Lutheran Settlement House Business Analysis

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NHD 2016: CMHEC Topic Ideas – Women & Family

Below you will find Library of Congress resources curated by TPS-Barat that relate to National History Day 2016 topic ideas from the Chicago Metro History Education Center. This set specifically focuses on women and family but all topic ideas are related to the 2016 NHD theme: Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History. More CMHEC topics will be referenced in subsequent posts. Encountering Masculinity: The Armour Mission Armour Mission historic newspaper coverage Exchanging … [Read more. ]


From Charitable Volunteers to Architects of Social Welfare: A Brief History of Social Work

The development of social work in the United States reflects an ongoing synthesis of ideas derived from many different cultures. While terms such as charity and philanthropy have Greek roots and are based on Biblical principles, modern social work concepts owe much to the influence of the Koran and the mutual aid practices of Native Americans, the African-American community, and immigrants from all over the world.

Before the American Revolution, formal systems of poor relief, child welfare, and even mental health services had been established in North America. These systems served a dual role of compassion and protection. By the early 19th century, states began taking responsibility for distributing relief from towns and counties. Since government responses proved largely insufficient or ineffective in addressing growing social problems, private benevolent societies and self-help organizations the predecessors of modern social service agencies played increasing roles in this regard.

The roots of US social work date back to this period and the efforts of upper-class women and men in church-based and secular charitable organizations to address the consequences of poverty, urbanization, and immigration. These untrained proto-social workers, known as "friendly visitors," sought to help poor individuals through moral persuasion and personal example. Organizations such as the Association for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor and the Children's Aid Society began investigating social conditions in areas such as tenement housing and child welfare.

The Civil War stimulated the emergence of large-scale private social welfare initiatives, such as the US Sanitary Commission and the Red Cross. In the War's aftermath, the short-lived Freedmen's Bureau (the first Federal social welfare program) provided assistance to newly emancipated slaves. State boards of charity arose to improve the management of institutions constructed during the previous generation.

Industrialization and the Origins of Modern Social Work

In the half century after the Civil War, rapid industrial expansion produced a dramatic increase in individual and community needs. The most notable social changes of this period included a series of economic depressions (known then as "panics") and their consequences new manifestations of racism following the end of Reconstruction in 1876 and a dramatic increase in immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe.

Using concepts derived from business and industry, reformers attempted to respond to some of these developments by regulating public relief distribution through so-called "scientific charity." In 1877, the first American Charity Organization Society (COS) based on such principles was founded in Buffalo, New York. Many COS clients, however, particularly poor Jews, Catholics, and African Americans, preferred more personal systems of self-help and mutual aid established by their own communities.

Settlement houses reflected a different type of organizational response to the impact of industrialization and immigration and introduced an alternative model of a social service agency a form of urban mission. The first US settlement, the Neighborhood Guild in New York City, was established in 1886. Three years later, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr founded Hull House in Chicago, which became the most famous American settlement.

Unlike the individually oriented COS, settlements focused on the environmental causes of poverty and expanding the working opportunities of the poor. They conducted research, helped establish the juvenile court system, created widows pension programs, promoted legislation prohibiting child labor, and introduced public health reforms and the concept of social insurance.

By 1910, there were more than 400 settlements, including those founded by African Americans to provide services denied by segregated agencies. Settlement activities soon expanded beyond specific neighborhoods and led to the creation of national organizations like the Women's Trade Union League, the National Consumers' League, the Urban League, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Settlement leaders were instrumental in establishing the Federal Children's Bureau in 1912, headed by Julia Lathrop from Hull House. Settlement leaders also played key roles in the major social movements of the period, including women's suffrage, peace, labor, civil rights, and temperance.

While the settlements focused on what later became group work and community organization, social work in the COS increasingly focused on casework with individuals and families. Sub-specialties in the areas of medical, psychiatric, and school social work began to appear in the early twentieth century. The growth of casework as a distinct area of practice also stimulated the creation of a formal social work training program in 1898.

This program, created by the New York COS in partnership with Columbia University, evolved into the New York School of Philanthropy and, eventually, the Columbia University School of Social Work. Early curricula emphasized practical work rather than academic subjects.

Settlements like the Chicago Commons also developed educational programs as early as 1901. By 1908, it offered a full curriculum through the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy (now the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration).

Formal methods-oriented training programs spread through major urban areas, most of them affiliated with private charitable organizations interested in standardizing the practices of their volunteers. By 1919, there were seventeen schools of social work affiliated as the Association of Training Schools of Professional Schools of Social Work the antecedent of today's Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Despite these efforts, in 1915, in an invitational lecture at the National Conference of Charities and Corrections entitled "Is Social Work a Profession?" Dr. Abraham Flexner, the nation's leading authority on professional education, asserted that the field lacked specificity, technical skills, or specialized knowledge and could not be considered a profession. His lecture further stimulated efforts already underway to consolidate experiential casework knowledge into a standardized format. Consequently, by the 1920s, casework emerged as the dominant form of professional social work in the United States.

During World War I, the expansion of government agencies led to increased professionalism in public-sector departments devoted to social welfare. Through the Red Cross and the Army, the War also provided opportunities for social workers to apply casework skills to the treatment of soldiers with "shell shock." Social workers were now sought as specialists in the social adjustment of non-impoverished populations.

Although the Progressive movement declined after World War I, social work practice with individuals and families continued to flourish. By 1927, over 100 child guidance clinics appeared in which teams of psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers provided services primarily to middle-class clients. A parallel development was the emergence of the Community Chest movement, which rationalized charitable giving at the community level and led to the creation of the United Way and its Health and Welfare Councils.

The Depression and the New Deal

In 1930, the US social welfare system was an uncoordinated mixture of local and state public relief agencies, supplemented by the modest resources of voluntary charitable organizations. Public agencies, however, did not necessarily provide the same services, or relate to one another administratively. Nor did voluntary organizations possess sufficient resources to address the growing needs which the Great Depression created.

The response to the Depression profoundly influenced social work practice and redefined the role of government as an instrument of social welfare. The public began to view poverty as the result of economic circumstances rather than personal failure. The idea that social welfare assistance was a government responsibility rather than a private charitable function gained wider acceptance. These changes led to the creation of a wide range of government programs under the Roosevelt Administration the New Deal which ultimately evolved into a complex national social welfare system. The New Deal also enhanced the status of the social work profession, particularly through the contributions of individuals like Harry Hopkins and Frances Perkins.

The centerpiece of the dozens of social welfare programs that comprised the New Deal was the Social Security Act of 1935. It expanded and improved standards of social welfare throughout the country and provided recipients with some sense of individual freedom and dignity. It helped establish a regular, unprecedented role for the federal government as a source of aid and introduced the concept of entitlement into the American political vocabulary. The scope of social welfare expanded beyond financial relief to the poor to include housing, rural problems, recreation and cultural activities, child welfare programs, and diverse forms of social insurance to Americans of all classes.

These policy developments significantly affected the social work profession by: enhancing the field's visibility in the area of public welfare and creating expanded work opportunities beyond private agency venues, introducing public welfare and public policy as integral aspects of the profession, expanding the practice of social work beyond previous urban limits to rural areas, and reintroducing an emphasis on social reform. The growth of public welfare programs also necessitated the recruitment of thousands of new social workers, whose numbers doubled from 40,000 to 80,000 within a decade and became considerably more diverse. This expansion led to recognition of the need for improved salaries and working conditions and enhanced educational requirements.

World War II and Post-War Academic Expansion

During World War II many social workers accepted war-related assignments, spurred by the establishment of a special classification for military social work and the development of services for war-impacted communities. In the decade after the War, considerable efforts were made to enhance the field's professional status. These included increased standardization of agency practices, the development of interdisciplinary doctoral training programs, and the creation of core MSW curricula. The formation of CSWE in 1952 and the establishment of the National Association of Social Workers in 1955 further strengthened the profession's status of the profession.

The post-war period was also one of significant change in US social welfare, highlighted by the establishment of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) in 1953. The primary beneficiaries of social policy changes between 1940 and 1960, however, were middle- income, white workers and, by the early 1960s, the United States lagged considerably behind other Western industrialized nations in the degree of social provision. At the same time, voluntary and public sector agencies shifted the focus of services from low-income to middle- and upper-income groups and reduced the role of community-based volunteers in organizational decision making and service delivery. In a hostile political environment, social activism declined and openly anti-welfare attitudes reemerged.

The "War on Poverty" and the "Great Society"

In the early 1960s, well-publicized exposes of poverty and the emergence of new "structuralist" perspectives on social problems forced Americans to rediscover the over 40 million people, approximately one third of them children, whose lives had been bypassed by modern economic and social progress. They inspired the development of new kinds of social service organization, such as Mobilization for Youth in New York, and led to President Johnson's proclamation of an "unconditional war on poverty" in January 1964.

The primary instrument of the "War on Poverty" was the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) which included such programs as the Job Corps, Upward Bound, the Neighborhood Youth Corps, Community Action, Head Start, Legal Services, Foster Grandparents, and the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). In 1965, Congress enacted Medicare and Medicaid, established the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), funded an array of services for the aged through the Older Americans Act, and created the Food Stamp Program under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture. The Elementary and Secondary School Education Act overturned longstanding precedents and directed federal aid to local schools in order to equalize educational opportunities for children. In 1966, the Model Cities Act targeted certain urban areas with comprehensive services and emphasized the concept of community control. Although the social work profession did not influence public policies on the scale it had in the 1930s, social workers played key roles throughout the 1960s in various anti-poverty and community-action programs and helped train individuals in new organizations like the Peace Corps and VISTA.

The 1970s

President Nixon shifted the administration of anti-poverty programs to states and localities. In 1972 and 1973, Congress passed the State and Local Fiscal Assistance Act and the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). This legislation established the concept of revenue sharing and led ultimately to the dismantling of the Office of Economic Opportunity. The most significant social policy accomplishments of the Nixon Administration, however, were the Social Security Amendments of 1972, which centralized and standardized aid to disabled people and low-income elderly and indexed benefits to inflation. Food stamps, child nutrition, and railroad retirement programs were also linked to cost-of-living rates.

The passage of Title XX of the Social Security Act in January 1975 reinforced the popular concept of federal "revenue sharing" which provided states with maximum flexibility in planning social services while promoting fiscal accountability. During the Ford and Carter administrations, Title XX shaped the direction of both public and nonprofit social services, with a particular focus on issues of welfare dependency, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, drug abuse, and community mental health.

While poverty continued to decline among the elderly in the 1970s, largely as a consequence of benefit indexing and Medicare, a virtual freeze on Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) benefits after 1973 and a decline in the purchasing power of wages produced a steady increase in poverty among children, particularly children of color. In the late 1970s, the Carter Administration's creation of block grants that combined formerly categorical programs into broad programmatic areas and established a ceiling on total state expenditures in return for increasing state control of spending patterns was a particularly significant development that had major implications in the 1980s.

Although most social reforms stagnated by the mid-1970s, there were considerable changes in the social work profession throughout the decade, including the beginnings of multicultural and gender awareness, which led to the development of new course content and efforts to expand minority recruitment the growth of multidisciplinary joint degree programs with Schools of Urban Planning, Public Health, Public Policy, Education, and Law the recognition of the BSW as the entry-level professional degree and the growth of private practice among social workers.

The "Reagan Revolution"

The policy changes that were inspired by the so-called "Reagan Revolution" of the 1980s compelled social workers to rely increasingly, if not exclusively, on private-sector solutions for social welfare problems. Entire programs were reduced, frozen, or eliminated. Additional block grants were created in such areas as child welfare and community development. A looming crisis in the funding of Social Security and Medicare was forestalled in 1983 through modest tax increases and benefit reductions. At the same time, ballooning federal deficits precluded any major new social welfare initiatives. Consequently, during times of overall prosperity poverty rates soared, particularly among children, young families, and persons of color. By the early 1990s, the number of people officially listed as "poor" had risen to 36 million.

Major cutbacks in government funding of social welfare created new challenges for social workers and social service agencies, as they confronted new and more complex social problems such as the crack cocaine epidemic, the spread of HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and homelessness. Social workers focused increased attention on developing effective management skills and increased their advocacy activities.

The Clinton Years

From the outset, President Clinton's policy options were severely constrained by the budget deficits his administration inherited. Stymied in the development of an ambitious social welfare agenda, such as a comprehensive national health insurance program, he focused instead on budgetary restraint and the promotion of economic growth. After considerable debate, he signed a controversial welfare reform bill in 1996 which replaced AFDC with block grants to states that included time limits and conditions on the receipt of cash assistance (now called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF]). The legislation also devolved responsibility for welfare program development to states and increased the roles of private-sector and faith-based organizations in program implementation.

President Clinton left office in January 2001 with several major social welfare issues unresolved. While some progress was made in providing health care for children in low-income families, over 43 million Americans still lacked coverage. The soaring cost of prescription drugs threatened the economic well-being of elderly Americans. Proposals to provide this benefit through Medicare and prevent a future crisis in funding for the Social Security system when the "baby boomer" generation retired made little progress in the 1990s because of political gridlock. Nor was any substantial progress made in addressing the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, particularly within the African-American community, or the persistent problems of homelessness and drug abuse. Finally, looming on the horizon were the potentially catastrophic consequences of enforcing the five-year lifetime cap on TANF recipients as the nation's economy cooled.

Policy developments in the 1990s had serious consequences for the social work profession. Welfare reform led to the restructuring of public welfare departments and to greater pressure on nonprofit organizations to fill gaps in service provision. The advent of managed care in the health and mental health fields dramatically altered the practice of many social workers, as did changes in child welfare policies. Although political opposition to Affirmative Action programs grew during these years, social workers, particularly in university settings, increasingly emphasized racial, gender, and ethnic diversity in their curricula and recruitment policies. NASW revised its Code of Ethics to make the pursuit of social justice an ethical imperative, and CSWE required all programs to teach students how to work for economic and social justice.

At the same time, organizations such as Americorps were established in 1994 to promote greater involvement of young people in communities. With the support of the NIMH Center for Social Work Research and the Society for Social Work and Research, schools of social work significantly increased their funded research and evaluation activities in such areas as mental health, aging, domestic violence, and child welfare.

Conclusion: US Social Welfare in the 21st Century

For over a century the profession of social work has grown and reinvented itself in response to rapid economic and social changes while maintaining its focus on advocating for the needs of the most vulnerable segments of society and improving their well-being. Today, social workers comprise the largest percentage of professionals working in the fields of mental health and family services. It is estimated that by 2005, there will be about 650,000 social workers, more than a thirty-percent increase over ten years. Despite recent changes in society and its commitment to social welfare, the primary mission of social work, as articulated in the NASW Code of Ethics, remains "to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty." In the future, this mission may inspire development of a new social welfare synthesis in which the state largely finances the provision of services but delegates their delivery to other sectors. New forms of practice and new venues for social workers are also likely to appear. In an increasingly multicultural society, community-based organizations could play an important role in enhancing client participation in the design and delivery of social services while expanding and revitalizing the nature of social work itself.

For Further Reading

Abramovitz, M. (1998). Regulating the Lives of Women: Social Welfare Policy from Colonial Times to the Present, 2nd edition, Boston: South End Press

Axinn, J. and Stern, M. (2001). Social Welfare: A History of the American Response to Need, 5th edition Boston, Allyn and Bacon.

Carlton-Laney, I.B., Ed. (2001). African American Leadership: An Empowerment Tradition in Social Welfare History, Washington D.C: NASW Press

Jansson, B.S. (2001). The Reluctant Welfare State, 4th edition, Belmont, CA:Brooks/Cole.

Katz, M.B. (1986). In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare America, New York: Basic Books

Leiby, J.(1979). A History of Social Welfare and Social Work in the United States, New York: Columbia University Press

Lubove, R. (1965). The Professional Altruist: The Emergence of Social Work as a Career, 1890-1930, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Patterson, J. (2000). America's Struggle Against Poverty in the 20th Century,Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Piven, F.F. and Cloward, R.A. (1995). Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare, revised edition, New York: Vintage Press.

Reisch, M. and Andrews, J.L. (2001). The Road Not Taken: A History of Radical Social Work in the United States, Philadelphia: Brunner-Routledge.

Reisch, M. and Gambrill, E., eds., Social Work in the 21st Century, Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

Simon, B.L. (1994). The Empowerment Tradition in American Social Work: A History, New York: Columbia University Press.

Specht, H. and Courtney, M. (1994). Unfaithful Angels: How Social Work Has Abandoned its Mission, New York: Free Press.

Wenocurm S. and Reisch, M. (1989). From Charity to Enterprise: The Development of American Social Work in a Market Economy, Urbana, IL:University of Illinois Press.

* This article was originally printed in the Fall 2001 issue of Ongoing Magazine


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