Comments at the University Society Annual Meeting, March 21, 1903 (excerpts)



Address by President Butler, Tenement House Commissioner DeForest and Miss Jane Addams.

The annual meeting of the University Society was held yesterday afternoon at Sherry's. President Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia presided and made a brief opening address commending the settlement for affording the means of developing reciprocal regard between different classes of society, and he said that this was especially important in a country where there are no artificial social distinctions and where within a single lifetime one may see instances of progress from one extreme of society to the other extreme.

Robert W. DeForest was introduced as the first speaker. Mr. DeForest, [besides] being the Tenement House Commissioner, is the president of the Charity Organization Society, and he drew upon his experience in both offices in his address. He said in part: "Social service means affording the means of relief, rather than charity. 'Not alms, but a friend,' is a good motto. The settlement, as I understood it, gives the friend.

"There is no limit to the good that may be accomplished by people working right along singly and without a thought of self. I wish to impress my appreciation of the good work that the University Settlements in this city have done in the matter of tenement house reform. Last January we were face to face with the most dangerous crisis that tenement reform had encountered since the present law was enacted. Now I believe I may say that all danger is over, and the fact that the danger is past is due, not to the city administration, but to the voice of public sentiment. And in arousing this effective public sentiment all of the settlements, both in Manhattan and in Brooklyn, have taken a most active and useful part."

Robert Hunter, the head worker of the settlement, who is in direct charge of the house at Eldridge and Rivington streets, gave an account of the work of the institution, and after him Miss Jane Addams of Hull House, Chicago, was introduced as the most prominent settlement worker in this country. She received a notable greeting. She said in part:

"Any list of the achievements of Settlements must be pitifully meager when compared with the needs to be met. Merely to build up a great institution is not the object for there is a natural and proper distrust of institutionalism. The real object is to get into personal relations with those who need our help and in spite of their needs we shall find that there is in their lives a pathos, dignity and worth which is the same as that of those more pleasantly situated.

"In our work at Hull House we have steadily grown in tolerance until we have sometimes had to ask ourselves if we were not in danger of going too far and of reaching that optimism which would accept everything as good. Yet we are convinced that there is a latent force, a creative power in the people with whom we deal which will come out if it only have a chance.

Miss Addams said that she could not entirely accept the motto, "Not alms, but a friend," as it was frequently necessary to give alms. It was work and association that was the great thing, however, and she protested against a tendency frequently shown to turn a particular branch of work over to the city as soon as it becomes the most promising.