The Social Museum Collection

Social Settlements

Social Settlements

Social settlements were located in poor, predominantly immigrant, communities and provided housing, educational, and cultural opportunities and other resources to low-income residents. Frequently established by alumni of universities and seminaries, the settlements were regarded as training facilities for future social scientists and religious leaders who wished to study firsthand the social questions of the day. They provided important professional opportunities for women as well.

The settlement movement began in England with the establishment of Toynbee Hall (1884) and quickly spread to the United States, where Chicago’s Hull House (1889) had a lasting influence. Because the root principle of settlements was that of “service through sharing in the spirit of friendship,” settlement workers frequently resided in the settlement house, which provided the opportunity for mutual education and benefit.