A Settlement House Hall of Fame

A Settlement House Hall of Fame
Edith Wilson: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Four or five class periods


As First Lady, Edith Wilson was very much involved in progressive works and causes.  One very important set of institutions that emerged during the Progressive Era was the Settlement House, a movement that attempted, with some success, to provide beacons of hope in the congested, dirty, and often poverty-stricken neighborhoods of America's large cities. 


Students who participate in this activity will learn a great deal about the Settlement House Movement of the Progressive Era, as well as about the women who were largely responsible for bringing the movement to life. 

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Access to print materials about the Progressive Era, about settlement houses, and about the women of the Settlement House Movement.


1.  Introduce the lesson by telling students that they are going to be responsible for doing the research that enables them to recommend women to be inducted into a brand new Settlement House Women's Hall of Fame.

2.  Using the websites listed below in the category "Settlement House Movement," all students should become familiar with the history, purposes, and accomplishments of the Settlement House Movement.

3.  Having become familiar with the Movement, students should now spend some time on the websites of other women's "hall of fame" institutions (see Halls of Fame, below).  Notice the commonalities and differences among these sites; pay particular attention to the ways in which the Inductees are presented and described.

4.  Now divide the class into six groups, each one of which will research the life of one of the following women:

  • Jane Addams
  • Ellen Gates Starr
  • Alice Hamilton
  • Florence Kelley
  • Frances Perkins
  • Lillian Wald

5.  The aim is to collect enough information to prepare biographies of these women and others who appear in the material about them.  It is up to the groups to select additional women for the Hall, based on criteria developed by the class as a whole.  It is also important for students to note the networks of relationships among these and other women, which accounts, in part, for their success in the Settlement House Movement.

6.  When the research and biographical writing is completed, the class can have a ceremony in which each woman is officially inducted into the Settlement House Women's Hall of Fame.



Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended in a number of ways: 1) the class can actually design the building for the Hall of Fame, complete with planning for particular exhibits; 2) students can read biographies of each woman selected, thereby gaining more knowledge about her life; 3) students can prepare a "circulating exhibit" of their work for use of other classes in their school.

Sources & Resources: