Robert Archey Woods to Jane Addams, September 6, 1923



Office of the Secretary
20 Union Park, Boston, Mass.

Sept. 6, 1923.

Miss Jane Addams,
800 South Halsted St.,
Chicago, Ill.

Dear Miss Addams:

The National Information Bureau, of which Mr. Allen T. Burns is director, is "a cooperative effort for the standardization of national social, civic, and philanthropic work and the protection of the contributing public." Some of the leading contributors to the bureau, who are also large present and potential contributors to the individual agencies of social work, have asked the bureau to undertake a national study of the present and prospective usefulness of the settlements. The bureau has also had assurances that show a marked interest in such a study on the part of numerous other representative supporters of public causes.

It has been specified by the bureau that this study should be undertaken and carried through in close and continuous cooperation with a representative group of experienced settlement workers. This group would at every stage be responsible for seeing that those who were conducting the inquiry for the bureau were provided with every means of access to the facts, and they would from stage to stage have every opportunity of seeing that the vital realities of settlement experience and services were carefully considered. The final judgment as to the relation and significance of all data would, of course, rest wholly with those who were in charge of the inquiry on behalf of the bureau.

While it is hoped that the study may develop proper ways of securing and tabulating statistics covering the more concrete services of the settlements, and thus enabling them to respond more effectively to tests that are increasingly being applied to their activities, it is clearly understood that the most vital aspects of settlement work can not be measured in that way. It would be the effort of those conducting the study, and subject to suggestion, and caution from settlement representatives, to use whatever methods of appreciation may be called for in order to grasp and to interpret all the more subtle and [page 2] more human phases of settlement approach and influence.

I feel that this study would serve to put settlement work in a more positive and constructive relation with the various other phases of social work, on the one hand, and, with the agencies of education, on the other. It is believed that it can serve to clarify the position of the settlement in its relation to political, economic and racial issues.

It is clearly understood that the settlement process has its essential value in being gradual and patient. The study, therefore, will cover a sufficiently long time to secure a sound estimate both of lines of action and policies.

It will also have prominently in mind not only the present stage of any given line of action, or the present program of operation of any settlement as a whole, but also the potentialities of well-developed settlement undertakings, specific or general, in the light of social and national needs.

I have gone over the whole matter very carefully with Mr. Burns. I have also had conferences with those who have called for this inquiry and are prepared to finance it. Mr. Burns has talked with Dr. John L. Elliott and Mr. George A. Bellamy about the plan, including, of course, the element of close settlement cooperation, and they have expressed positive interest in it in a preliminary way.

The question will at once rise in the minds of the members of the executive committee whether in the light of the disappointment so generally felt with the results of the Carnegie Americanization study as it affected the settlements, we could look for the kind of cooperative and constructive attitude on the part of Mr. Burns which would ensure a just and helpful result. I have gone into this phase of the matter very thoroughly with Mr. Burns. This is not the place for a full discussion of this point; but I am satisfied that the difficulty with regard to the former study was the result of a certain fundamental lack of understanding among the different parties at interest as to the conditions and purposes involved. In any case, I feel sure that a small responsible group of settlement representatives can, in conference with Mr. Burns, satisfy themselves as to the attitude and spirit in which he would undertake this new and far-reaching task. Mr. Burns has said to those calling for the study that he would not undertake it unless, on the basis of such understanding, the continuous cooperation of the National Federation of Settlements could be secured. Mr. Burns would select qualified associates who would be acceptable to the settlement group.

As the matter is one that should be under way as soon as possible, I write to ask you as a member of the Executive Committee:

(1) To give your judgment as to the general desirability and feasibility of such a plan.

(2) To state whether you will approve of the appointment by the president of five persons who, with the president and executive secretary, shall constitute a committee that shall, on the basis of full conference with Mr. Burns, decided whether the National Federation shall approve this project, and if the project is approved by them, to proceed in [cooperation] with the National Bureau, as above outlined, and under such direction as the executive committee shall exercise, to [page 3] work it out.

It would be understood that this committee would appoint [subcommittees] from the general membership of the National Federation to represent special phases of the settlement activity and outlook.

Any expense incurred by the National Federation in formulating and carrying out its part of this plan would be covered in the budget of the plan.

Mr. Kennedy agrees with me in believing that this undertaking may be the means of bringing the settlements into a whole new stage of influence and resource.

Yours sincerely,

Robt. A. Woods. [signed]