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Settlement movement

For the organizations for kibbutzim and moshavim, see Settlement movement (Israel).

The settlement movement was a reformist social movement, beginning in the 1880s and peaking around the 1920s in England and the US, with a goal of getting the rich and poor in society to live more closely together in an interdependent community. Its main object was the establishment of "settlement houses" in poor urban areas, in which volunteer middle-class "settlement workers" would live, hoping to share knowledge and culture with, and alleviate the poverty of, their low-income neighbors. The "settlement houses" provided services such as daycare, education, and healthcare to improve the lives of the poor in these areas.[1]


  • History 1
    • United Kingdom 1.1
    • United States 1.2
    • Russia 1.3
  • Description 2
  • Legacy and impact 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


United Kingdom

The movement started in London in the mid-19th century. These houses, radically different from those in America, often offered food, shelter, and basic and higher education, provided by virtue of charity on part of wealthy donors, the residents of the city, and (for education) scholars who volunteered their time.

Victorian England, increasingly concerned with poverty, gave rise to the movement whereby those connected to universities settled students in slum areas to live and work alongside local people. Through their efforts settlement houses were established for education, savings, sports, and arts. Such institutions were often praised by religious representatives concerned with the lives of the poor, and criticized as normative or moralistic by radical social movements.

There were basic commonalities in the movement. These institutions were more concerned with societal causes for poverty, especially the changes that came with industrialization, rather than personal causes which their predecessors believed were the main reason for poverty. The settlement movement believed that social reform was best pursued and pushed for by private charities.

Toynbee Hall settlement house, founded 1884, pictured here in 1902

The Percy Alden). There is also a global network, the International Federation of Settlements.

The movement gave rise to many social policy initiatives and innovative ways of working to improve the conditions of the most excluded members of society. The Poor Man's Lawyer service came about because a barrister volunteered his time and encouraged his friends to do the same. In general, the settlement movement, and settlement houses in particular, "have been a foundation for social work practice in this country".[3]

United States

Bohemian immigrant youth at the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House in 1918 in East St. Louis, Illinois

Between 1890 and 1910, more than 12 million European people immigrated to the United States. They came from Ireland, Russia, Italy and other European countries and provided cheap factory labor, a demand that was created with the country's expansion into the west following the Civil War. Many immigrants lived in crowded and disease-ridden tenements, worked long hours, and lived in poverty. Children often worked to help support the family. Jacob Riis wrote How the Other Half Lives about the lives of immigrants on New York City's Lower East Side to bring greater awareness of the immigrant's living conditions.[4]

The most famous settlement house in the United States is

  • British Association of Settlements and Social Action Centres (bassac) is now Locality
  • International Federation of Settlements website
  • What is a Settlement House?

External links

  • Blank, Barbara Trainin. "Settlement Houses: Old Idea in New Form Builds Communities", The New Social Worker, Summer 1998, Vol. 5, No. 3
  • Hunter, Robert. "The Relation Between Social Settlements and Charity Organization," Journal of Political Economy, vol. 11, no. 1 (Dec. 1902), pp. 75–88. In JSTOR

Further reading

  1. ^ Wade, Louise Carrol (2004). "Settlement Houses". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  2. ^ a b c Victor J. Danilov (26 September 2013). "Social Activists". Famous Americans: A Directory of Museums, Historic Sites, and Memorials. Scarecrow Press. pp. 356–357.  
  3. ^ Reyes, J. M. (2008). Common space, safe place: Lived experiences of former settlement house participants from the West Town and Humboldt Park neighborhoods of Chicago Dissertation Abstract International, 69(5), 1682A. (UMI No. AAI3314871) Retrieved July 13, 2009, from Dissertations and Theses Database.
  4. ^ Michael Friedman; Brett Friedman (1 January 2006). Settlement Houses: Improving the Social Welfare of America's Immigrants. Rosen Classroom. pp. 4–7.  
  5. ^ Husock, H. (1993). "Bringing back the settlement house". Public Welfare, 51(4).
  6. ^ Valkanova, Y. & Brehony, K. J. (2006). "Gifts and Contributions: Friedrich Froebel and Russian Education (1860 – 1929)" (PDF). History of Education Journal 35 (3): 187 – 209. Retrieved 2015-07-26. 
  7. ^ "Reston". Retrieved 30 December 2010. 


See also

Settlement houses influenced urban design and architecture in the 20th century. For example, James Rossant of Conklin + Rossant agreed with Robert E. Simon's social vision and consciously sought to mix economic backgrounds when drawing up the master plan for Reston, Virginia.[7] The New Monastic movement has a similar goal and model.

Legacy and impact

Today, settlements are still community-focused organizations, providing a range of services including early education, youth guidance and crime intervention, senior programs, and specialized programs for young people who have "aged out" of the foster care system. Since they are staffed by professional employees and students, they no longer require that employees live alongside those they serve.


The movement also spread to late Tsarist Russia, as Stanislav Shatsky and Alexander Zelenko set up a network of educational and social institutions in northern Moscow in 1905, naming it "Setlement" ("Сетлемент", the English word transliterated to Russian). This network of institutions was closed down by the Tsarist authorities in 1908, due to alleged socialist activities.[6]

Site of the Communal Club for Working Children, a cornerstone of the Russian Setlement network.


American settlement houses functioned on a philosophy of “scientific philanthropy,” a belief that instead of giving direct relief, charities should give resources to the poor so they could break out of the circle of poverty. American charity workers feared that the deeply entrenched social class system in Europe would develop in the United States.

By 1913, there were 413 settlements in 32 states.[5] By the 1920s, there were almost 500 settlement houses in the country.[2] The settlement house concept was continued by Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker "hospitality houses" in the 1930s.

. Appalachia to serve isolated rural communities in settlement schools, founded in 1886 and the oldest in the United States, were, like Hull House, important sites for social reform. United Neighborhood Houses of New York is the federation of 35 settlement houses in New York City. These and other settlement houses inspired the establishment of University Settlement House, founded in 1896, and Hiram House, founded in 1893, Henry Street Settlement, founded in 1894, Friendly Inn Settlement House, founded in 1874, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House [2]

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