Mina Carson deftly merges social and intellectual history to reconsider the settlement movement—its Anglo-American roots and evolution, its conflicts and accomplishments. Carson focuses her study on the careers and ideas of settlement founders and leaders, among them Jane Addams, Robert Woods, Mary Simkhovitch, Lillian Wald, and Graham Taylor. She demonstrates how these influential, often charismatic leaders appropriated and adapted certain Victorian values—such as the Social Gospel and the religion of character—to their visions of urban reform through action and experimentation.
These extraordinary individuals left an enduring legacy of beliefs about professional and voluntary responsibility for welfare services. As Carson shows, however, their genius for image creation and their myriad connections with other intellectual and social leaders extended the influence of the settlement ideology in many directions: fostering new attitudes toward the American city and the equality of the sexes, initiating a new social-scientific approach to social problems, and shaping the self-definition of the American educated middle class.