It is, however, not in connection with punitive, but with preventative, institutions that women have been most active. Gradually the conviction has grown that in the moral as in the physical world “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Therefore to lift children out of the evil influences which stimulate propensities to crime, which offer every temptation to it and provide easy opportunities for committing it, is the work of those who seek prevention instead of cure. Free Kindergartens, Industrial and Manual Training Schools, Girls’ Clubs, Boys’ Clubs, Mothers’ Meetings, Parents’ Societies, Social Settlements, College Settlements, Protective Agencies, Emigrant and Immigration Associations, Friendly Societies, etc., are among the best known and most effective through which prevention is attempted. These agencies not only rescue from conditions whose certain end is crime, but they directly nurture in society a larger hope in regard to classes that hitherto have been considered outcast, and they indirectly modify the laws which bear upon all social questions.
The voluntary and unauthorized work of women has demonstrated their capabilities for this form of social service, and has led to their official appointment upon boards of guardians and the visiting boards of public institutions. In Europe many protective and preventative institutions are partially or wholly supported by governments, which acknowledge the efficiency of the voluntary service of women by appointing women to continue to serve after the institutions are taken under the auspices of the government. Even in our own country, where there exists little precedent for the public support of private initiative, there are many schools, homes, retreats, and asylums which get aid from township and municipal governments in direct recognition of the fact that the whole people justly may be called upon to support institutions whose sure effect is to diminish jails, prisons, and workhouses. What is invested in prevention will not merely be deducted from appropriations for cure, but by securing an improved inheritance will guarantee a constantly diminishing need.
Of all of these preventative agencies no other is so popular as that known as Settlement work. Although in other countries, especially in England, men have been more prominent in this work than women, in the United States, from the organization of the first Settlement in Rivington Street, New York City, to the latest development of that center of influence in Chicago, known as the Hull House, women have been borne a dominant share.
All preventative work, especially such as is represented by Settlement life, results from the vital believe in human relationship, from the profound conviction that each one is his brother’s keeper, and that from that responsibility as to his neighbor’s life none may be excused. The part borne by women in the organization and conduct of preventative agencies cannot be stated definitively. Women are at once more practical and more actively imaginative than men. It is due to this apparent contradiction that, so rapidly as they have attained positions of influence, they have boldly undertaken to accomplish what by men had generally been considered visionary and impossible. As exponents of religion in the pulpit, in journalism, and in literature, women have less generally dealt with doctrines, dogmas, and tenets of faith, and have moved on to the realizations of ideals. Hence in enumerating the women concerned in practical preventative work, one may not ignore those who as ministers of the Gospel and as public teachers have unconsciously, have paved the way to Christian socialism.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.