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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Bloomington Settlement House

In 1908 a handful of women in Bloomington took up the cause of helping immigrant families and families on the West Side with child care services, teaching services and medical care. It began very slowly, with $1 a year donations, a handicraft counter and bake sale, and became a West Side institution. I've written about the Settlement House

Rodney Sears, Bobby Rebmann, Barbara Mather, Ronald Langhoff

-- when I discovered Jane Thompson, a long time social worker at the Settlement House and an immigrant herself, from Canada. She died long before these images were made, but the children above are involved in a Carnival at the Settlement House on Mulberry Street.

The Settlement House was modeled after Hull House in Chicago. The women wanted to provide a place of education and childcare for women who were required to work for their living. Clubs for the mothers were organized where speakers would talk about issues of the day or simply about housekeeping. Children were cared for in the Day Nursery for a nominal sum, or for nothing if the family could not pay. A library of books was provided as well as a librarian once a week. Americanization classes provided immigrants with language classes and instruction in gaining citizenship. A kindergarten was provided, until the city schools began providing kindergartens. Doctors in the city donated their time to the medical and dental clinic days, and a social worker was available 24 hours a day to care for the sick or new mothers, find clothing and shoes for those who needed them and even prepare the dead for burial. Eventually the women were running a tea room that became THE place where women's clubs met or parties were thrown. Until the Community Chest started in the 1920s the women ran the Settlement House through donations and income from the tea room.

Doris Patterson, Donna Buford, Bobbie McMahon,

The Pantagraph Negative Collection has a good number of images from the Day Nursery, the cooking school and the West Side Community Center. (slideshow below)

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