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Writing Empires II:
Writing Histories and Theories

2007 MLA Convention
27-30 December 2008
Chicago, Illinois


Amy Dunham Strand
Aquinas College

New Immigrants, New Women, and Settlement House Writing Instruction in the U.S., 1880-1920


Do not cite without permission of the author.

According to the United States Census in 1900 there were in Chicago 69,771 foreign-born white persons ten years of age and over unable to speak English; in 1910 the number was 184,884.  By 1916, it is estimated the number was more than 200,000.  In 1900 there were 46,624 foreign-born white persons over fourteen years of age who were unable to read or write in any language; in 1910 the number was 75,580.  How much effort is being made to offer these people the opportunity of learning the things they need to know, very few people in Chicago have stopped to inquire. (Abbott 237) 

In 1917, Grace Abbott, director of the Immigrants’ Protective League and once a resident at Chicago’s well-known Hull-House settlement house, addressed one of the largest issues surrounding national expansion at the turn of the century:  how to teach newcomers to the U.S. “the things they need to know” to participate in national life.  At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, through both imperialism and immigration, the U.S. expanded abroad and at home.  In 1898, following the U.S.’s defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War, the U.S. stretched its territory overseas, taking possession of Guam, Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines.  With increased “new” immigration in the years surrounding the Spanish-American War, the U.S. expanded its population at home as well, working to reframe the idea of “America” in ever more global terms within the nation’s geographical borders.1   As expressed by Abbott and by many others, how to assimilate non-English-speaking, non-literate immigrants into American culture was one of the most pressing national concerns of the day.

Political cartoons published in the era’s new magazines graphically captured such problems of imperialism and immigration, and they suggested some potential solutions.  Such political cartoons introduced elements of education and gender into cultural representations of newly-conquered or newly-arrived people, who were consistently depicted as screaming infants or sullen children, with various maternal Americans as instructing, scolding, or otherwise “civilizing” them.  For example, a cartoon published in Puck on January 31, 1900 and subtitled “If They’ll Only Be Good,” is captioned “Uncle Sam—You have seen what my sons can do in battle;--now see what my daughters can do in peace” (Newman 27).  In the foreground of the cartoon, Uncle Sam is pictured standing tall, arms widened, with military troops marching away behind him on a palm-tree-lined beach, presumably in one of the newly-acquired territories; stock 19th-century female figures such as the Old Maid, Benevolent Nurse, and book-bearing Prissy Schoolteacher, march forward, toward an array of small, primitive-looking children clad in grass skirts.  Another image shows a schoolmarmish Uncle Sam with a long lecture stick, scolding a nearby row of dark-skinned, pouting children sitting in seats labeled Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, such that, through their location in an American classroom, they are portrayed as already located within the U.S. (Race). 

This location is reinforced by the fact that, on the sidelines, a grinning African American man cleans a window and a Native American Indian, with a feathered headdress and blanketed shoulders, sits hunched over an “ABC” book, held upside-down, while a group of faceless whites sit in the background.  Yet another political cartoon, with its setting clearly marked by a map on the wall, a globe in front of it, and a sign reading “school” posted over the door, shows a tall white schoolmistress arranging the dress of a screaming, infantile Chinese figure, while a crowd of predominantly, somewhat slovenly dressed white men, look on, smiling and holding a sign that reads “Kick Out the Heathen.  He’s Got No Vote” (Race).  Taken together, these images, and others like them, suggest both womanly and educational components to the problems posed by imperialism and immigration – dimensions that were, in part, satisfied by the era’s newly-educated women, like Abbott herself, who founded settlement houses, took up residence, or taught courses to poor urban immigrants there.  That is, one answer to the challenges of national expansion came from the “new women” who increasingly entered public life between 1880 and 1920:  English language education in the era’s burgeoning settlement house movement.2  

In the context of late 19th- and early 20th-century U.S. imperialism suggested by Abbott’s observations and by the era’s political cartoons, this paper explores the intersection of new women and new immigrants in language education – specifically, writing instruction in the settlement houses that brought these two groups together.  In order to probe one of the complex national contexts in which writing instruction has taken place in this country and to give a sense of what this history may tell us about the varied contexts of writing instruction today, this paper gives a closer at ways in which writing instruction by women educators may have “civilized” and “domesticated” immigrants in an imperialistic and nationalistic historical moment.  Through settlement house English education, which included writing, I suggest that new women were simultaneously domestic imperialists, linguistically spreading Americanization and westernization efforts within the continental United States, and anti-nationalistic domesticators, working through language to teach practical skills to make immigrants “at home” here and to forge meaningful human connections across the idea of nation.  While scholars have attended to women’s role as national civilizers and Americanizers of new immigrants during this period, what has been overlooked are the complicated civilizing and domesticating roles that women’s English language instruction in American settlement houses might have played in this process.3   To attend to these roles, I will first give some background on turn-of-the-century settlement houses as scenes of writing instruction, then consider how women settlers and their writing instruction were situated within often-imperialistic discourses of “civilization” and “domesticity,” before finally offering some observations about what this exploration may open up for us today.

Imported to the U.S. from England, the settlement house movement sought to connect educated young people, who took up residence in poor urban areas, with their “neighbors,” who were largely immigrants; settlements had a dual motivation to serve both the urban poor and middle-class college graduates, since, for settlers like Chicago’s own, well-known Jane Addams, the waste of the life and talent of the ‘submerged tenth’ of educated youth was as wasteful as that of the destitute (“Subjective” 22).  At the end of the 19th century in America, the settlement house movement caught on quickly, and settlements were founded within a few years of one another – in New York (where Neighbourhood Guild was founded in 1886 and College Settlement Association in 1889); in Chicago (where Ellen Gates Starr’s and Jane Addams’ Hull-House, begun in 1889, became the most famous); and in Boston (where Vida Dutton Scudder’s Denison House opened in 1891) (Carson 34-35; Garbus 549).  There were 411 settlements across the U.S. by 1911 (Woods and Kennedy vi, ctd. in Garbus 549).  As Julie Garbus writes of Boston’s Denison House in her examination of Scudder’s teaching, it “offered typical settlement activities:  clubs and classes for children and adults, parties, a savings bank, bath facilities, a summer camp outside the city, a library.  It helped community members (‘neighbors’) find jobs, clothes, and food” (549). 

As portrayed in Addams’ and Scudder’s many writings, settlers noticed the social inequalities brought by industrialization, immigration, and national expansion and hoped their projects would bridge gaps between rich and poor, between “American” and “foreigner.”  Addams – the settler whose work is most well-known and from whom I will mostly draw here – spelled out the motives for settlements “into three great lines: the first contains the desire to make the entire social organism democratic, to extend democracy beyond its political expression; the second is the impulse to share the race life, and to bring as much as possible of social energy and the accumulation of civilization to those portions of the race which have little; the third springs from a certain renaissance of Christianity, a movement toward its early humanitarian aspects” (“Subjective” 15).  Addams felt that democratizing the franchise did little to effect social equality; she wanted settlers to join their lives, usefully, with all of humanity in order to increase the humanity of all, following the non-resistant, non-iconoclastic, self-sacrificing model of the early Christians.  When reading such settlers’ writings, the well-intentioned earnestness and expansiveness of their project is inescapable.  As Garbus puts it, “I cannot emphasize enough that the settlers did the best they could, and that they helped neighbors in countless practical ways.  Late Victorians with a vision, they ventured into dangerous inner cities before the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, or social work had crystallized.  In fact, their work laid some of the foundations for those fields” (557). 

Likewise, we might consider turn-of-the-century settlers as laying the foundation of urban writing instruction at a time when, according to Robert Connors, composition-rhetoric was becoming consolidated as a discipline, partly because of national concerns about illiteracy.  Many settlement houses offered some component of English language instruction.  I will focus here on Hull-House’s writing courses as illustrative because of its paradigmatic place in the settlement house movement.  The Hull-House Bulletins and Year Books, housed in the Jane Addams Memorial Collection at University of Illinois at Chicago, offer us a glimpse of the growing importance of writing classes, taught largely by Hull-House women, over the years from 1896-1916.  Regularly offered among the secondary classes taught by women settlers such as Miss Eleanor H. Johnson and Miss Elizabeth H. Thomas in Hull-House’s early years, classes such as “English Grammar and Letter Writing” and “Lessons in English Reading” were augmented in the late 1890s by a variety of additional English language classes (Hull-House Bulletin vols. 1.1-2.6 [Jan. 1896-Oct. 1897]).  These included English Grammar and Composition, English Writing and Composition, Lessons in English for Beginners, and Advanced Composition and Theme Work, apparently first offered in October 1898 (Hull-House Bulletin, vols. 3.6-3.9 [Oct. 1898-Feb. 1899]).  While the Advanced Composition and Theme Work class eventually drops out, an expanded list of English lessons – including, grammar, spelling, reading, writing/composition, and rhetoric – easily came to dominate the classes offered at the secondary level by the early 1900s.  For example, in mid-winter 1903-4, 12 out of 14 classes at the secondary level involved instruction in English (Hull-House Bulletin vol. 6.1 [mid-winter 1903-4]).  By 1905-06, 10 of 12 secondary classes, with the majority still taught by women, pertained to English language instruction:  two sections each of Beginners’ English, Second Class in English, Third Class in English, Fourth Class in English, and one section each of Rhetoric and Composition, and Grammar (Hull-House Bulletin vol. 7.1 [1905-6]). 

The ever-expanding list of course offerings in Hull-House Bulletins gives the impression of increasing need for English language instruction, including writing – an impression confirmed in the Hull-House Year Books, which replaced the Bulletins in 1906.  For example, the description of classes offered in the May, 1910 Hull-House Year Book notes that classes were revised to better meet immigrants’ needs (8-9) – a statement echoed in later yearbooks such as the 1913 Year Book.  By 1916, in its summary of adult classes, the Year Book observed that “It has been found in the last few years that the demand for instruction in elementary English, grammar and rhetoric constantly increases” (7).  That year, 13 out of 17 elementary classes offered at Hull-House were English classes, including English Composition; 11 instructors were women, and 3 were men (8). As Mary Lynn McCree Bryan and Allen F. Davis put it, “When college extension courses and lectures on Greek art did not meet the educational requirements of many of the neighbors, the Hull-House leaders added basic instruction in English language and American government to aid the immigrant who was desperately trying to learn new American ways” (7).  English language instruction became more and more important to the educational mission of Hull-House, and it increasingly embraced writing as well as speaking and reading English.

Women’s writing instruction at turn-of-the-century settlement houses offers a rich site for examining the intersection of ideologies of language, gender, and nation; in other words, it can be seen as a “scene” of American literacy learning around which, as Deborah Brandt might put it, “hangs” some significant “ideological congestion” (Literacy 207).  For, English education at settlement houses perceptibly partook in the era’s gender- and language-laden ideas about “civilization” and “domesticity,” which often discursively expressed the era’s nationalistic and imperialistic attitudes.  Scholars such as Gail Bederman in Manliness and Civilization have shown how the discourse of civilization responded to, among other things, anxieties about the changing face of America’s population and helped to justify the imperialistic reach of the nation.  As turn-of-the-century Americans saw it, “’Civilization,’” says Bederman, “simultaneously denoted attributes of race and gender.  By invoking the discourse of civilization in a variety of contradictory ways, many Americans found a powerfully effective way to link male dominance to white supremacy,” using the discourse to “legitimize different sorts of claims to power” (Bederman 23).  By around 1890, Bederman argues, the discourse of civilization had adopted particular meanings circulating around not only religion but also race and gender:  as a step up from “savagery” then “barbarism,” “civilization” meant a specific, advanced stage in human racial evolution, one that only the white races had yet achieved; in addition, civilizations were ranked according to their degree of sexual differentiation, wherein “civilized white men were the most manly ever evolved—firm of character; self-controlled; protectors of women and children” and “civilized” women were supremely domestic, “dedicated to the home” (25).  In the late 1890s, leaders like Theodore Roosevelt rationalized imperialism because they saw themselves as dutifully bearing, on behalf of “civilization,” what Rudyard Kipling, in 1899, called “the White Man’s burden” (Bederman 187).  “In short,” writes Bederman, “racial health and civilized advancement implied both manhood and imperialism.  An effeminate race was a decadent race; and a decadent race was too weak to advance civilization.  Only by embracing virile racial expansionism could a civilization achieve its true manhood.  This, as TR saw it, was the ultimate meaning of imperialism” (190).  As seen in the political cartoons discussed above, the imperialistic discourse of civilization was gender-laden not simply in its linkage of “civilization” and “manliness,” but also in its incorporation of interlaced ideologies of civilization, womanhood, and domesticity.

On the one hand, the educational philosophy offered by women settlers cut against the often-nationalistic, imperialistic discourse of civilization, holding up the settlement’s inter-national ideal of lateral connection and fellowship among people of different classes, countries, languages, races, and religions, and attempting to empower people of difference in their daily lives.  In “The Snare of Preparation,” quoting her own early notebooks, Addams reflects on her original vision of the settlement house as “a ‘cathedral of humanity,’ which should be ‘capacious enough to house a fellowship of common purpose,’ and which should be ‘beautiful enough to persuade men to hold fast to the vision of human solidarity’ (“Snare” 110).  In her later writings, Addams distinctly espoused a broad inter-nationalism, valuing an alternative conception of civilization as “a method of living, an attitude of equal respect for all men” (“Aspects of the Women’s Movement” 287); she disdained what she called “institutional” and “dogmatic” nationalism in a 1919 essay titled “Americanization” (241) and derided what she called “our national self-righteousness” in a forward-looking 1933 essay of this title.  As a practical extension of this human solidarity, Addams and her fellow settlers were often legal advocates for immigrants.4   In terms of education, English classes at Hull-House had similar practical, and empowering, ends in attempting to prepare immigrants linguistically for American life, a fact which Addams recognizes when she writes that “Even a meager knowledge of English may mean an opportunity to work in a factory versus nonemployment, or it may mean a question of life or death when a sharp command must be understood in order to avoid the danger of a descending crane” (in Bryan and Davis 250).  And rather than wanting to replace immigrants’ first languages, Addams emphasized English language instruction as important for shoring up the traditions and authority of first-generation immigrant parents against their often proud, “dissipated,” or disrespectful children  (“Immigrants and Their Children” in Twenty Years 147).  

On the other hand, even when English language classes were increasingly modified in the 1910s to meet immigrant neighbors’ needs, classes emphasizing “the best” of Western culture remained alongside them to reinscribe Western “civilization” and unwittingly support imperialistic attitudes – for example, the class in advanced literature, which featured readings from Cervantes, Lamb, Tolstoy, Goethe, Austen, Boswell and “the best contemporary dramas” (Hull-House Year Book [1916], 8).  Despite settlers’ earnest desire for reciprocity between themselves and their students, settlers were perhaps inescapably caught up in the discourse of civilization – as captured above when Addams discusses the settlement’s aim of “bring[ing] as much as possible of social energy and the accumulation of civilization to those portions of the race which have little.”  Settlers often imagined themselves as bringing [largely Western] “civilization” to the poor, immigrant inner-city populations they served.  Indeed, Hull-House’s most popular classes and clubs centered on Shakespeare and Plato; its first art exhibit, opened in June 1891, featured “some of the best” pictures that Chicago could afford – Corot, Watts, and Davis (Addams “Objective” 37-38).  In noting that the Shakespeare Club “lived a continuous existence at Hull-House for sixteen years,” Addams recalled that:

one of its earliest members said that her mind was peopled with Shakespeare characters during her long hours of sewing in a shop, that she couldn’t remember what she thought about before she joined the club, and concluded that she hadn’t thought about anything at all.  To feed the mind of the worker, to lift it above the monotony of his tasks, and to connect it with the larger world, outside of his immediate surroundings, has always been the object of art, perhaps never more nobly fulfilled than by the great English bard. (Bryan and Davis 249). 

Addams clearly sees “peopling” the mind of this immigrant with characters from “the great English bard” as uplifting her, and her reflections thus partake to some extent in civilizing discourses of the day, privileging Anglo-Saxon language and culture.  Thus some contemporary scholars see Hull-House’s classes and clubs as part of “a larger assimilatory vision” that tacitly believed in a superior Anglo-American culture and failed to honor immigrant cultures (Lissak 90-91 qtd. in Carson 40).  To be fair, although they may not have known how to address this, Hull-House’s Addams and Denison House’s Scudder did seem to sense the imbalance in such a vision.  Addams was impatient with “bookish and remote” educational methods that were detached from immigrants’ experience and failed to meet “the needs of adult working people in contra-distinction to those employed in schools and colleges, or those used in teaching children” (“Educational Methods” 199-200).  Scudder “eventually left settlement work because she felt that settlements were not doing enough to further class equality,” and she abandoned teaching humanities classes to those living in poverty (Garbus 550, 560).  In 1912, Scudder left settlement work altogether, believing “that the movement had forgotten its original reasons for existence” and becoming convinced “that settlements were band-aids, not potential incubators of social revolution” (561). 

The fact that settlements were perhaps not “potential incubators of social revolution” makes sense when we consider that new women, new immigrants, and the language instruction that brought them together were all contained within the ideologically dense scene of settlement houses.  For the predominantly white, college-educated American women who taught English classes in settlement houses to help “civilize” newcomers’ language, ideologies of civilization were attached to domestic ideologies, since according to the discourse of “civilization,” “civilized” women were “dedicated to the home.”  For, while they recast “civilization” and “domesticity” in some new, progressive ways, such that new women were anti-nationalistic domesticators, in other, more traditional ways, urban settlement houses reinscribed “civilization” and “domesticity” such that women educators were simultaneously domestic imperialists.

By settling in much larger homes, with names such as Hull-House and Denison House, the new women of the settlement house movement were dedicated to much larger domestic spaces than the Republican Mothers of the early 19th century, so that settlement houses can be seen, on the one hand, as sites for radical, potentially transformative reformulations of gendered ideas of domesticity; they relocated these women in inner-city neighborhoods and in roles beyond those of wives and mothers.  Addams saw settlement work as an active avenue for worldly engagement, appealing to the young woman, who in the first years after leaving school is “besotted with innocent little ambitions” and “finds ‘life’ so different from what she expected it to be” (“Subjective” 20).  As outlets for young, college-educated women’s faculties, settlements like Hull-House became “very much a woman’s project” and gave central, civic roles to the educated new women of the era, who found in them the interdependence of women in similar situations as themselves (Hurt xvii). 

Reflecting back on her years at Denison House, Wellesley literature professor Scudder lauded the broadly educational benefits for the settlers who lived there and noted that settlements offered bright, intellectual, middle class young women a potentially transformative shift in their view of the (unacceptability of the) social order through their intimate contact with people living in what would be considered intolerable conditions for themselves (On Journey 160-61, 140 qtd. in Garbus 550-51).  And in discussing the lines of activities at Hull-House, Addams was aware of the new civic role women were playing there:  “They [the activities of Hull-House] might be designated as the social, educational, and humanitarian, I have added civic—if indeed a Settlement of women can be said to perform civic duties” (“Objective” 32).  These new “civic duties” of settlement house women potentially reformed not only women’s experience but also their wider sociopolitical roles.5

While settlements were potentially radical in their introduction of civic roles to women, in other ways they reinscribed women’s traditional social roles and amplifed gendered understandings of 19th-century ideal womanhood, which celebrated virtues of purity, piety, submissiveness, and domesticity for women.  The religious, moral, and social channels that settlement houses provided for women’s influence to “leak” into national life were at least partly ratified by 19th-century middle-class American culture’s sentimental conventions (Carson 37).  And at Hull-House, for example, the social versus civic nature of women’s educational work was emphasized.  When Addams describes “the relation of students and faculty to each other and to the residence,” she uses the framework of hospitality, defining the relation as “that of guest and hostess” (“Objective” 36).  Moreover, the English classes at Hull-House themselves boasted decidedly social elements; the 1916 Hull-House Year Book notes that “Once a month the members of all the English classes are brought together for an entertainment and dance.  On each occasion a program of music by the Hull-House Orchestra, a dramatic entertainment, or a lecture with stereopticon is followed by a dance.  An important event of the evening is always a grand march, led by members of one of the Social Clubs, who devise a number of spirited figures that both skilled and unskilled dancers keenly enjoy.  Between two hundred and four hundred young people attend each of these parties” (7-8).  Even as English teachers in settlements, then, women as hostesses and social coordinators continued in some of their traditional domestic roles.

            Significantly, through their English instruction, settlers also helped to domesticate those whom they taught.  Besides attracting college-educated “new women,” settlements were meant to be a magnet for immigrant women.  For example, one magazine, the Gary Works Circle, published “A Message for Mothers” that emphasized the importance of the immigrant woman’s English language learning at the local settlement house to the domestication of her own family as wife and mother: 

Do your best to learn English, go to the Mother’s Club at the Settlement House if there is one near you.  Maintain your place in the home and keep the respect of your husband and children by learning as much as you can about what is going on in the new country . . . By so doing you will not only retain the place of honor you should have as wife and mother but you will be adding to the sum of your happiness and usefulness. (Jack qtd. in Crocker 138)

Women as both teachers and learners, then, and particularly as teachers and learners of the English language, were central to Hull-House and the settlement house movement as a whole, and the linguistic exchanges of both new women and new immigrants were circumscribed by “domesticity” as well as “civilization,” caught up in the activities of making homes, whether in new urban neighborhoods or in a new country.  Even as they worked to forge inter-national connections, in settlement house classrooms over linguistic exchanges, new women were domesticated against the civic/political, and new immigrants against the foreign/alien, working together to uphold American “civilization” in an age of imperialism.6

A consideration of the gendered, national, and global contexts in which writing instruction at turn-of-the-century settlement houses occurred gives us an opportunity to consider the larger cultural work of instruction offered by contemporary reformulations of 19th-century settlement houses in today’s settlement houses, urban tutoring centers, and even new service learning programs – and to consider how such writing instruction may or may not echo its predecessors.  Although it is, of course, difficult to see fully the ideological density of these contemporary scenes of writing instruction, they may bear as many positive as negative traces of their founding moment:  they work to meet the everyday needs of the people they involve, to connect individuals of varied linguistic, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, and to draw democratic participation in ways that settlers, likely, would have seen as ideal. And, in an increasingly multicultural society, they can boast increased theoretical awareness of “difference,” a concept with which Addams wrestled both theoretically and practically when their society was becoming increasingly diverse.  For example, at Philadelphia’s Lutheran Settlement House, originally founded in 1902, writing instruction developed by staff of the Women’s Program concentrates on helping new adult writers of English to make “the transition from spoken dialectical English to formal written English by providing practice in forms of writing that adults use in everyday life, and ranging from personal and informal [like writing out a grocery list, an absence note, or a party invitation] to formal and business-like [such as writing a letter of complaint]” (Writing it Down 6; see also Writing for Beginning Readers).Another example of an ongoing writing program at a settlement house today, the Community Literacy Center at Pittsburgh’s Community House, originally founded in 1916, “seeks to reinvent the early settlement house vision of social change through inquiry and politically self-conscious cultural interaction,” through an alternative discourse of community literacy, in order to help “inner-city residents build relationships and strengthen their community through action-oriented writing and dialogue” (Peck et al. 6-7). 
Today’s increasingly common service learning programs, too, carry on the settlement house traditions of service and learning, but without “settling” in the areas where they serve and learn (Garbus 563). 

            The observations of new women settlers like Grace Abbott, Vida Dutton Scudder, and Jane Addams are striking in their prescience and continued relevance.  In 1908, for instance, Addams wrote: 

If an historian, one hundred years from now, should write the social history of America, he would probably say that one of the marked characteristics of our time was the arrival of immigrants at the rate of a million a year and the fact that the American people had little social connection with them.  If the historian a hundred years hence used the same phrases which the psychologists now use—perhaps they will get over them by that time—he would say that our minds seem to be ‘inhibited’ by certain mental concepts which apparently prevented us from forming social relations with immigrants. (“Women’s Conscience” 260)

Looking at Addams’ historical moment – a moment in which gender- and nation-laden discourses of “civilization” and “domesticity” undergirded “certain mental concepts” with respect to American immigrants – can enlighten the complex gendered, national, and global contexts of writing instruction in our own era of globalization, a century later.  Today, the U.S. continues to expand its reach, if in global markets as well as military venues; linguistic consequences of immigration are still a pressing concern, if from ever-new immigrants from around the world; and highly educated women, though now “third-wave feminists” rather than the last century’s “new women,” continue to negotiate ideas about domesticity to balance public and private demands of work and family, all at a time when equal franchise, as in Addams’ day, still does not equate to social equality.  The concerns expressed by my own colleagues and students are similar to those of turn-of-the-century settlers:  Through meaningful educational work, how can we best bridge the gaps among us to realize democracy’s promise?  Through teaching the tools of the dominant language, how can we equalize, rather than reinscribe, power disparities in our society?  In the face of such questions, perhaps the example of new immigrants’ and new women’s interactions in settlement houses can be as instructive as their historical contexts:  Even while enmeshed in the nation’s gendered drive toward empire, through their teaching and learning, they nevertheless worked for equality.

Works Cited

Abbott, Grace.  “The Education of the Immigrant.”  The Immigrant and the Community. New York: Century, 1917. 221-246.

Addams, Jane. “Americanization” in American Sociological Society Publications 14 (1919). Elshtain 240-247.

---. “Aspects of the Women’s Movement.” In The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House, September 1909 to September 1929 with a Record of Growing World Consciousness.  New York: Macmillan, 1930. Elshtain 275-293.

---. “Educational Methods.” Democracy and Social Ethics. New York: Macmillan, 1902. 178-220.

---. “The Objective Value of a Social Settlement.” In Henry C. Adams, ed. Philanthropy and Social Progress, Seven Essays by Miss Jane Addams, Robert A. Woods, Father J.O.S. Huntington, Professor Franklin H. Giddings and Bernard Bosanquet. Delivered before the School of Applied Ethics at Plymouth, Mass., during the Session of 1892.  New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1893.  Elshtain 29-45.

---. “Our National Self Righteousness,” University of Chicago Magazine, vol. 26 (Nov. 1933).  Elshtain 442-447.

---. “The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements.” In Henry C. Adams, ed. Philanthropy and Social Progress, Seven Essays by Miss Jane Addams, Robert A. Woods, Father J.O.S. Huntington, Professor Franklin H. Giddings and Bernard Bosanquet. Delivered before the School of Applied Ethics at Plymouth, Mass., during the Session of 1892.  New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1893.  Elshtain 14-28.

---.  “The Snare of Preparation.”  In Twenty Years at Hull-House with Autobiographical Notes. New York: Macmillan, 1910.  Elshtain 100-113.

---. Twenty Years at Hull-House.  1910.  Intro. and Notes by James Hurt.  Illus. by Norah Hamilton.  Urbana and Chicago:  U of Illinois P, 1990.

---. “Women’s Conscience and Social Amelioration.” In Charles Stelzle et al., Social Application of Religion.  Merrick Lectures, Ohio Wesleyan University. Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham, 1908. Elshtain 252-263.

Bederman, Gail.  Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917.  Chicago and London: The U of Chicago P, 1995

Brandt, Deborah. Literacy in American Lives.  New York and Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001.

Bryan, Mary Lynn McCree and Allen F. Davis, Eds.  100 Years at Hull-House.  Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1969, 1990.

Carson, Mina.  “American Settlement Houses:  The First Half Century.”  Settlements, Social Change, and Community Action:  Good Neighbors.  Ed. Ruth Gilchrist and Tony Jeffs. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley, 2001. 34-53.
Connors, Robert J.  Composition-Rhetoric: Backgrounds, Theory, and Pedagogy.  Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1997.

Crocker, Ruth Hutchinson.  Social Work and Social Order: The Settlement Movement in Two Industrial Cities, 1889-1930. Urbana and Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1992.

Garbus, Julie.  “Service-Learning, 1902.”  College English 64.5 (May 2002): 547-565.

Gere Ann Ruggles Gere, Intimate Practices: Literacy and Cultural Work in U. S. Women’s Clubs, 1880-1920.Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1997.

Elshtain, Jean Beth, ed.  The Jane Addams Reader.  New York: Basic, 2002.

Hull-House Bulletins. Vols. 1 (1896) – 7 (1906).  Hull-House Association Records.  Hull-House Collection.  Box 1, Folders 425-432.  Jane Addams Memorial Collection (hereafter cited as JAMC). U of Illinois at Chicago Library Special Collections (hereafter cited as UIC Spec Coll), Chicago. 

Hull-House Maps and Papers: A Presentation of Nationalities and Wages in a Congested District of Chicago, together with Comments and Essays on Problems Growing Out of the Social Conditions. 1895. By Residents of Hull-House. New York: Arno Press and The New York Times, 1970.

Hull-House Year Book. Sept. 1 1906- Sept. 1 1907.  Hull-House Association Records.  Hull-House Collection.  Box 43, Folder 434. JAMC. UIC Spec Coll, Chicago.
---.  May 1, 1910. Hull-House Association Records.  Hull-House Collection.  Box 43, Folder 435.  JAMC. UIC Spec Coll, Chicago.

---.  Jan. 1, 1913. Hull-House Association Records.  Hull-House Collection.  Box 43, Folder 436.  JAMC. UIC Spec Coll, Chicago.

---.  May 1, 1916. Hull-House Association Records.  Hull-House Collection.  Box 43, Folder 437.  JAMC. UIC Spec Coll, Chicago.

Hurt, James.  Introduction and Notes.  Twenty Years at Hull-House.  Urbana and Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1990.  ix-xix.

Jack, Dr. Hugh.  “A Message to Mothers.  Written Especially for the Mothers Who Have Recently Come with Their Husbands and Children from Foreign Lands, to Make Homes in America.”  Gary Works Circle14 (August 1920): 6-7.

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum Exhibit.  U of Illinois at Chicago. 2 Nov. 2007.

Jones, Maldwyn Allen.  American Immigration. Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1960.

Kaplan, Amy.  “Manifest Domesticity.”  American Literature 70.3 (Sept. 1998): 581-606.

Kerber, Linda K. and Jane Sherron De Hart, Eds.  Women’s America: Refocusing the Past. 5th ed. New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000.

Lissak, R. S.  Pluralism and Progressives:  Hull House and the New Immigrants, 1890-1917.  Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989.

Newman, Louise Michele.  White Women’s Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States.  New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.

Peck, Wayne Campbell, Linda Flower, and Lorraine Higgins. “Community Literacy.”  Occasional Paper 34 (Jan. 1994).  Joint Paper of National Center for the Study of Writing (U of California at Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon U) and Community Literacy Center (Pittsburgh). 1-39.

Smith, Rogers M.  Civic Ideals:  Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History.  New Haven and London:  Yale UP, 1997.

Race: The Power of An Illusion.  Episode 2: “The Story We Tell.” 56 min.  Prod. Larry Adelman. Videodisc. California Newsreel, 2003. 42-48 min.

Woods, Robert and Albert J. Kennedy. Handbook of Settlements. New York: Arno, 1970.

Writing for Beginning Readers. Prepared by Carria Hawkins, Curriculum Developer. Philadelphia:  Lutheran Settlement House Women’s Program of the Lutheran Social Mission Society, 1985.

Writing it Down: Writing Skills for Everyday Life. Developed by staff of the Women’s Program, Lutheran Settlement House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Syracuse, New York: New Readers P, 1989.


1. According to the Dillingham Commission set up by Congress in 1907 to study United States immigration, “new immigrants” from Southern and Eastern Europe and Asia, comprised of largely unskilled, transient, urban male workers, increased steadily from 1883 onward.  See Maldwyn Allen Jones for a classic account of immigration in this era; see Rogers M. Smith for an excellent description of the era’s citizenship laws in response to immigration. 

2. See Linda K. Kerber and Jane Sherron De Hart (265-66) for concise background on the activities of these progressive “new women.” 

3. Gail Bederman, for instance, explores white women’s role in building American civilization during this era.  Ann Ruggles Gere focuses on women’s clubs, citizenship, and literacy – predominantly understood as reading – during this period.  I am more interested here in English language education broadly conceived, encompassing not only reading, but also speaking and writing.

4. Addams reflects that “Hull-House, in spite of itself, does a good deal of legal work.  We have secured support for deserted women, insurance for bewildered widows, damages for injured operators, furniture from the clutches of the instalment store.  One function of the Settlement to its neighborhood somewhat resembles that of the big brother whose mere presence on the play ground protects the little one from bullies” (“Objective” 43). 

  5. Indeed, we could say that this potential sociopolitical reformation of women’s traditional roles eventually led J. Edgar Hoover, the Founding Director of the FBI, to call Addams “The Most Dangerous Woman in America” and the FBI to state in a report dated March 20, 1928, that Jane Addams “is directly responsible for the growth of the radical movement among women in America” for her support of women’s right to vote at the Progressive Party Convention of 1912 (Jane Addams Hull-House Museum).   

6. Apt here is Amy Kaplan’s attention to the double meaning of domestic as opposed not only to the politicalbut also to the foreign.  In “Manifest Domesticity,” Kaplan shows how the discourses of domesticity, nationalism, and imperialism overlap, as the development of domestic discourse, alongside the discourse of Manifest Destiny, had an “imperial reach,” particularly in antebellum women’s novels (“Manifest Domesticity” 584). 




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