The National Federation of Settlements (NFS), founded in 1911, established guidelines for settlement houses, which included a non-sectarian approach. Historian Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn critiques the NFS’ non-sectarian ideology for its exclusivity and calls for a more flexible and inclusive definition of what constituted a settlement house and a more expansive historiography of the movement. Using Lasch-Quinn’s framework, this essay investigates the settlement and community work of three Methodist women who overlapped for several decades in Progressive Era Chicago: Mary E. McDowell, Iva Durham Vennard, and Lucy Rider Meyer. By considering together the outreach endeavors of these three women under the broader definition of settlement work, we gain a more complete yet more complex historiography of Methodist settlement work in the early twentieth century.
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