Almost Worthy: The Poor, Paupers, and the Science of Charity by Brent Ruswick

By Brent Ruswick

Within the Eighties, social reform leaders warned that the “unworthy” negative have been taking charitable reduction meant for the really deserving. Armed with facts and stressed notions of evolution, those “scientific charity” reformers based corporations purpose on proscribing entry to reduction by way of the main morally, biologically, and economically not worthy. Brent Ruswick examines a favourite nationwide association for medical social reform and negative reduction in Indianapolis to be able to know how those new theories of poverty gave delivery to new courses to help the bad.

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Extra info for Almost Worthy: The Poor, Paupers, and the Science of Charity in America, 1877-1917

Sample text

What happened to Big Moll? 2 “A r mi e s of V ice ”: Evol u t ion , H e r e di t y, a n d t h e Pau pe r M e nace The Biological Pauper In the late 1870s, the pauper became a threat not only to the nation’s economic and moral health but to its biological health as well. Ameri­cans learned of Darwinian biology and the vari­ous social implications that commentators drew from the “struggle for existence” at the same moment that economic depression threw more people deeper into that struggle. Chronic, intergenerational dependence could easily be ­explained as the consequence of charitable relief obstructing the natural course of evolution by unnaturally protecting humanity’s weakest mem­bers and allowing them to perpetuate that weakness, instead of strengthening them to better face life’s struggles.

They therefore of­ten acknowledged only their most immediate institutional relative, the London Charity Or­ga­ni­za­tion Society. In elaborating the scientific charity movement’s history and how its principles and methods could expose the pauper, McCul­loch liberally quoted from the Reverend Stephen Humphreys Gurteen, whom he had met the preceding year. An English émigré to the United States, Gurteen in turn had learned his principles of scientific charity from Octavia Hill and the London Charity Or­ga­ni­za­tion Society.

Religious affiliation mattered more than po­liti­cal allegiance, with Methodists and then Baptists and Presbyterians claiming the largest number of practitioners. 5 Indianapolis exemplified the national trends of urban growth and poverty that prompted the calls to better organize and coordinate charity. 6 As it became a major railroad center, the city’s population grew from 18,611 to 48,244 during the 1860s: this was a 160 percent growth rate matched only by San Francisco and Chicago. By 1877 the population had leaped to 75,000.

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