Robert A. Woods: Settlements, neighbourhoods and associations. Robert Archey Woods played a pivotal role in the introduction and development of university and social settlements in the United States of America. In this brief assessment we outline his contribution.
Robert Archey Woods (1865-1925) was the son of Scottish-Irish immigrants who settled in Pittsburg. He appears to have had a strongly Calvinist upbringing. His father, a successful, small businessman was an active figure in the local Presbyterian church, but died when Robert was 15. Encouraged by his mother (Catherine Hall Woods) to go to College his higher education career began at Amherst College. While his academic studies may have left something to be desired he gained much from the discussions and debates that were part of the College life (Woods 1929). Attracted by the growing reputation of Andover Theological Seminary as a centre of exploration of the social gospel (‘connecting theology with life’) Robert A. Woods was not seeking ordination. He soon fell under the influence of William Jowett Tucker, whose approach to social economics was deeply critical of charity organization and traditional philanthropy. Instead he looked ‘bolder social change’ to bring about ‘economic justice’. Woods was beginning to search for a philosophy that could combine both social and individual salvation (see Carson 1990: 14 and 29).
Robert Woods became a key figure in the introduction and development of university and social settlements in the United States. Founder and Head of South End House (1895-1925) and Secretary of the National Federation of Settlements from 1911 to just before his death he was both an important animator and organizer, and exponent of settlement work. Many of his important papers were published in 1923 as The Neighborhood in Nation Building. Other important works include English Social Movements (1891) and Handbook of Settlements (1911) and The Settlement Horizon (1922) (the last two were written with Albert J. Kennedy).
In the archives:
Robert A. Woods (1899) University settlements: their point and drift. In this important piece, Woods reflects on the development of settlement work in the United States and argues for the fostering of association, co-operation and common welfare.
Robert A. Woods (1912) The recovery of the parish. Originally an address, this piece makes a strong argument for neighbourhood fellowship and association and looks to role that churches can, and should, play in their cultivation.
Further reading and bibliography
Carson, M. (1990) Settlement Folk. Social thought and the American settlement movement, 1885 – 1930, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 280 + xiii pages. Mina Carson weaves the history of the North American settlement movement with an exploration of the thinking and contribution of key actors like Robert A. Woods.
Woods, E. (1929) Robert A. Woods. Champion of democracy, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. Written by his widow, this account of his life is not critical but does provide some detail about his activities.
Woods, Robert. A. (1923) The Neighborhood in Nation-Building. The running comment of thirty years at South End House, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. 348 + viii pages. Collection of key papers and addresses.
Woods, Robert. A. (1891) English Social Movements, New York: C. Scribner’s Sons.
Woods, Robert. A. and others (1895) The poor in great cities : their problems and what is doing to solve them, New York: C. Scribner’s Sons,
Woods, Robert. A. (ed.) (1898) The City Wilderness. A study of the South End, Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Co.
Woods, Robert. A. (ed.) (1902) Americans in Process : a settlement study of the North and West Ends by residents and associates of the South End House, Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Co.
Woods, Robert. A. and Kennedy, A. J. (eds.) (1911) Handbook of Settlements, New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Woods, Robert. A. and Kennedy, A. J. (1913) Young working girls; a summary of evidence from two thousand social workers, ed. for the National Federation of Settlements with an introduction by Jane Addams, Boston, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company
Woods, Robert. A. and Kennedy, A. J. (1922) The Settlement Horizon. A national estimate, New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
How to cite this article: Smith, M. K. (2003). ‘Robert A. Woods: settlements, neighbourhoods and associations’, the encyclopedia of informal education. [http://infed.org/mobi/robert-a-woods-settlements-neighbourhoods-and-associations/. Retrived: insert date]
© Mark K. Smith 2003
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