Primary Sources & Lesson Plans
The Henry Street Settlement House, founded in 1895 by Lillian Wald, reflected the Progressive Eras spirit of optimism, its faith in expertise, and its belief in the importance of prevention to alleviate social problems. Settlement houses, created and run by middle-class women such as Wald and Jane Addams, sought to improve the horrid conditions of urban life in the industrializing city. They provided education, vocational training, citizenship classes, and recreational activities. They also reached out to immigrants.
The Visiting Nurse Service was one component of the Henry Street House. The visiting nurses went to the homes of the urban poor to tend to the sick and teach the importance of germ warfare to combat the squalor of tenement life. These efforts were not always welcomed by the immigrants who frequently resented the intrusions and cultural imposition of these visitors.
This pamphlet reflects the contradictions of the Progressive efforts. In the minds of those providing the assistance, the problems were caused not by the inherent inferiority of the poor immigrant children, but rather by the absence of a positive and healthy environment. Vacation programs, such as those advertised in this flier, sought to remove children from their unhealthy urban surroundings for a temporary period. The implied inadequacy of the childrens own families, however, often alienated the intended recipients of the assistance.
For more information on the efforts of the Henry Street Settlement, go to JWAs Women of Valor Lillian Wald exhibit.
1. The primary mission of the Henry Street Settlement is stated at the top of the flier. What do you think this sentence means? Why are two words written in capital letters?
2. What is the demeanor of the children in the photograph? Why is this demeanor emphasized?
3. According to the flier, why should people make donations to the Henry Street Settlement? Would this flier generate donations today?
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