Northern Illinois University Press

More than Neighbors

Catholic Settlements and Day Nurseries in Chicago, 1893–1930

Deborah A. Skok

"Shines a spotlight on one aspect of the interplay between Catholics and urban life. Skok clearly has a superb command not only of the extensive literature of Progressive-era social welfare reform and women's benevolence but also of American Catholic history related to this field."—American Historical Review

"Deepens our understanding of the settlement impulse and the ways in which it manifested itself outside of the traditional definition of a settlement.”—Michigan Historical Review

The influx of southern and eastern European immigrants to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century resulted in a stereotype of Catholics as poor, illiterate laborers. As prejudice against the unwelcome newcomers spread, Irish- and German-American Catholics—many of whom were American-born—felt threatened. Although genuinely concerned about the welfare of fellow Catholics, they feared the loss of their hard-earned economic security and slowly rising social position. By identifying common interests, the women of Chicago’s Catholic community found a solution that simultaneously served the needy and cemented the status of the middle class.

In More than Neighbors, Deborah A. Skok tells the story of Chicago’s Catholic settlement houses and day nurseries and the cross-class alliances they fostered. For poor women, these institutions provided child care, social services, and employment. For white-collar working girls, they offered volunteer opportunities as well as classes on job skills. For upwardly mobile women, they afforded the ability to demonstrate Christian charity and to take leading roles in the political and cultural life of the city. Settlements enabled Catholic women from all social strata to come together for their mutual benefit, despite conflicts over issues of class and ethnicity.

By giving equal attention to the religious as well as to the social component of the settlement house movement, Skok illuminates the dynamics of class mobility, ethnic group interaction, and the gendered relations of power. Historians can no longer ignore the significance of Jane Addams’s neighbors.

(2007) 251 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-374-6
cloth $38.00

Deborah A. Skok is Assistant Professor of History at Hendrix College.

Table of Contents

Introduction—A Hull House and a Church: Interpreting Catholic Settlements
Chapter One—Laywomen to the Rescue: Literature, Charity, and the Catholic Woman's League
Chapter Two—Settlements and the State: CWL Women in City Government
Chapter Three—Sacred Space and Worldly Authority: The Guardian Angel Mission
Chapter Four—Leisure Culture and Boston Marriage: The Madonna Center
Chapter Five—Aspiring Politicians: The De Paul Settlement Club
Chapter Six—Unexpected Rescuers: Day Nursery Mothers and Nuns
Chapter Seven—Professional Rescuers: The Future of Catholic Settlements
Conclusion—Catholic Settlements: Church and State
Appendix—Catholic Day Nurseries, Settlement Houses, and Churches Doing Settlement Work, 1892–1930
Abbreviations Used in Text and Notes
Selected Bibliography

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-374-6
cloth $38.00