Social Regeneration, December 7, 1903 (summary)




Extravagance Also Is Noted by the Bureau of Charities Worker--Fewer Children Would Avert Much Suffering, He Says--Burden Is Too Great for Young Persons--Pensions for the Aged Are Advocated--Miss Addams Tells of "Social Regeneration."

That many poor persons have too large families for their own good was the opinion advanced last evening by E. C. Wentworth at the annual meeting of the south central district of the bureau of charities at St. Paul's Universalist Church.

Mr. Wentworth is chairman of the advisory committee of the district between Twenty-sixth and Thirty-ninth streets, the lake and the west city limits. All cases requiring aid come before this committee. Mr. Wentworth enumerated several of them. At the outset he explained that he was a student, rather than a professional charity worker, and that the bureau was not responsible for his views.

Fewer Babies Would Be Better.

"In my conclusions," said Mr. Wentworth, who is a young man and a member of the Chicago Ethical Society, "I am impressed with the fact that poor persons have too large families. It is common to find a man making only $12 a week with from three to ten children, all under 15 years old. This is too many. The burden is too great for young persons, the suffering in such families is vastly more than is brought about by rum. Fewer babies would be better.

"I also find extravagant tastes among this class. A woman whose husband was earning only $12 a week bought a $20 baby carriage on the installment plan. After the first $5 there was a failure to meet the payments. The furniture company seized the wages of the husband and he lost his place."

The need of a system of pensions for the aged was impressed upon Mr. Wentworth by the case of a man 72 years old, who had worked forty years for a railroad company and recently found himself out of employment. He never had belonged to a labor union or to a fraternal organization and had saved no money. Mr. Wentworth advocated an old age insurance organization.

Tells of "Social Regeneration."

Other speakers were Miss Jane Addams, who told how "Social Regeneration" might be brought about by individuals interesting themselves in the actual needs of their neighbors instead of one giving alms in a spirit of pity; Ernest P. Bicknell, general secretary of the bureau of charities; J. E. Otis, and the Rev. Z. B. Phillips.

"As regards charitable work, you occasionally quiet your consciences by giving a little money to some mendicant," said Miss Addams. "Let me tell you, your act is as unpraiseworthy as that of the beggar to whom the money is given. You are lessening the man's sense of moral responsibility.

"Thousands of poor, little, half-starved mites of humanity are living in this city in such squalor and misery and filth as you can never conceive, with no impulse of good, no glimpse of the ideal or beautiful, no hope of anything except the misery and poverty in which they drag out their poor little joyless lives. These little ones are schooled in lives of vice and crime from the first dawning of their intelligence. Girls less than 15 years old are drawn into the maelstrom and lost."