Philanthropy or Self-Determination?

Explore various ways women activists came to terms with the growth of cities, an influx of immigrants, and the expansion of wage work in the late 1800s and early 1900s. How coercive or benevolent were types of activism that, while motivated by a desire to do good work, attempted to control the behavior of others?

The Octavia Hill Association was founded in 1896 by Philadelphia resident Helen Parrish, who had studied with British housing activist Octavia Hill. Its goals were to improve working class housing conditions through the sympathetic management of dwellings which it purchased and renovated. Helen Parrish’s diaries document her “friendly visits” to her tenants. Similar to other early social welfare work, these visits were periodically invasive, policing tenants’ sexual behavior, childcare practices, financial decisions, and drinking habits.