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

By Brent Ruswick

Within the Eighteen Eighties, social reform leaders warned that the “unworthy” negative have been taking charitable aid meant for the really deserving. Armed with records and harassed notions of evolution, those “scientific charity” reformers based companies motive on restricting entry to aid via the main morally, biologically, and economically not worthy. Brent Ruswick examines a favorite nationwide association for clinical social reform and negative reduction in Indianapolis with the intention to know how those new theories of poverty gave start to new courses to help the terrible.

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

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40 Abhorring the pauper’s continued existence and concerned by the effects of impersonal charity, Hill shared the common Victorian assumption that in­di­v idual flaws in character were the primary causes of poverty. The only way to effect permanent relief of poverty was to change the poor’s behavior, but to Hill this could never be achieved through institutions like the poorhouses. It instead required reestablishing social relationships between charitable givers and recipients. 41 Hill envisioned her society as a central hub coordinating the investigation of poor persons’ claims to relief and subsequent charitable action.

As late as 1860 the city possessed just two blocks of paved road. Still an agriculturally oriented town, at that date it ranked forty-­eighth nationally in population but only ninetieth in manufacturing. 4 Historian Frederick Kershner noted that “social amalgamation was more characteristic than social cleavage. ” Instead, fault lines ran along ethnic and religious lines, in­clud­ing strong anti-­German and Irish sentiments and race riots against the African Ameri­can population. Religious affiliation mattered more than po­liti­cal allegiance, with Methodists and then Baptists and Presbyterians claiming the largest number of practitioners.

Historians of eugenics see McCul­loch’s research as inspiration and scientific support for sterilization of the unfit, noting that Indiana became the first state to pass a sterilization law in 1907 and that the Eugenics Record Office picked up on his work almost a quarter-­century after his death. 14 Missing from this kaleidoscopic view is an examination of what McCul­loch actually thought he was doing: synthesizing his understanding of the biological and social sciences with his liberal biblical exegesis in order to address contemporary questions of social welfare.

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