Survey Associates.

Survey midmonthly : journal of social work (Volume 74) online

. (page 75 of 109)
Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesSurvey midmonthly : journal of social work (Volume 74) → online text (page 75 of 109)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the young delinquent, or shall we concentrate our forces on
pre-delinquency dealing with the child ?

It Has Happened Before

School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton I'niversity

IN theory, nothing is easier than the application of the
le>sons of history to the current scene. The historian
comes to the practical man with an account of how
It was done the time before or the time before that, a hun-
Ired or two hundred years ago; the practical man wel-
romes him eagerly and uses his information as a guide.
In practice it does not work out that way. Whenever
draw historical parallels between the past and present
In poor relief, using my knowledge of the English New
I'oor Law of 1834, my social work friends have two
n>crs: if I justify their actions I am doing excellent
I esearch ; if not, I am forgetting that the problems of the
Present must be met with the methods of the present.
(The) are so close to the situation as it is right now that
he> are interested in analogies only if the analogies are
BJ exact as to fit not only the situation but also their mood
Is they view it.

I However, that should not discourage the historian from
ffering his help. If he knows anything about the past
hat is worth knowing, he understands its moods as well
Bi its facts, and knows which arguments obtained hearers.
pe merely goes back to his records, and, in the closest par-
el to the present situation which he can find, digs out the
uments that were most effective. Then, with more hope
convincing, he urges the consideration of certain facts
rhich were listened to when people were in much the same
lood over much the same problems as they are today.

The historical reason for believing that these particular
new-old facts about administrative methods in giving relief
will be listened to is that the Rev. J. T. Becher's book,
The Anti-Pauper System, advocating them, was a best
seller between 1830 and 1834. Their applicability today
may be tested against the way the Rev. Mr. Becher's
methods worked out, when applied on a nation-wide scale.

If the readers of Survey Mitlmonthly knew no history
and no sociology, I could embark upon my argument at
once, with a description of the administrative methods
used in England after 1834 to make sure that only those
that needed relief got it. But to those who know anything
about this period, one aspect of the New Poor Law of
1834, the workhouse test, so overshadows all the rest, that
it must be made clear that that is not what I am talking
about. The law permitted shutting the unemployed into
workhouses; its administration consisted of so much propa-
ganda about that power, that the easier methods I am
about to describe were considered relaxations rather than
restrictions. Subsequent historians and sociologists have
been deceived by this propaganda into believing that the
Poor Law Commission actually did what it so loudly an-
nounced it might do. That fact has obscured the actual
methods of "dispauperization" by which, in the years
1834-41, the Poor Law Commission and its seventeen
assistant commissioners, cleared the relief rolls of all Eng-
land, and cleared them with little trouble.



The Poor Law Commission's first act, as ordered by the
law, was to set up new supervisory bodies for relief on a
more democratic basis. This was accomplished by the as-
sistant commissioners in their trips about England. The
purpose was to gain improved supervision ; the actual result
was to cut the relief lists at once. For this new administra-
tive machinery meant a shake-up of control and a re-
examination of every case receiving relief. A certain num-
ber of cases just did not appear for re-examination ; more
were found no longer to need relief. Curious as it may
seem the most serious chance of trouble came at this pre-
liminary stage. If a great crowd of unemployed were as-
sembled for examination, all of them fearing they would
lose relief, a riot might break out. Sir Francis Head, an
assistant commissioner, was besieged for several hours in
a parish church in Kent, just because he had not been wise
enough to examine cases a few at a time and to give them
the assurance of a long and thus a fair hearing. Once that
had been learned and after Sir Francis's experience there
was only one more such riot, again from foolishness on
the part of the assistant commissioner these first steps
alone largely cleared the relief rolls. Because there was a
genuine attempt to help the needy as well as to get rid
of chiselers, the shake-up was accepted in good spirit.

THE next step was to cut the costs of relief by giving
half of it in food, not money. Here a great problem
was to make sure that the grocers did not object. To them
the direct loss of money in relief orders always loomed
larger than the benefit of making their clients solvent. It
took tact on the part of the assistant commissioners to
make them see the light. Only once did trouble come from
this policy, when the bakers of South Nolton in Devon
caused a riot. A petition against losing their graft, from
some foolish bakers in Kent, made excellent propaganda
for the commission. The advantage of giving half the
relief in rations was two-fold. In the first place, money
was saved by large scale buying. Second, there was an in-
ducement to clients to get "off relief," because any stand-
ardized diet, however good, is tiresome. This policy had
the surprising end result of making people healthier as a
result of food of better quality, as well as more desirous
of working.

Immediately afterward a new system of accounts was
adopted by the Poor Law Commission. Since it was stand-
ardized and required "fixing" three books instead of one,
it was very successful in discouraging anyone who wanted
to peculate. In fact, not only English relief but all Eng-
lish local government today is based on that discovery.
Daniel Adey, assistant commissioner for Hertfordshire and
Bedfordshire, who brought in the new system, is one of
the unsung heroes of English history, for from his account
books and the auditors he trained has grown the famous
English auditing system, a check on graft.

Next, payment of rent from relief money was pro-
hibited. Here was a second group, the landlords, who had
to be converted from a short-sighted view to a long-sighted
one. They had discovered that they got rents more quickly
from a solvent relief authority than from hard-working
men who lived from hand to mouth. Most of the landlords
unconsciously, some consciously, took to renting only to
those on relief. This situation had forced men on relief in
order to get shelter. When relief in rents was prohibited,
the landlords were turned from unemployment agents to
employment agents. They now found that their interests

lay in working to bring back prosperity instead of destroy-
ing it. This required salesmanship on the part of the as-
sistant commissioners, but they were successful except in
Wales, where one of them, Thomas Stevens, could not
speak the language.

When these methods had been applied and had accom-
plished all they could, the work-test was introduced. All
those able to work were asked to do so. These employables
were always free to go off and look for other work, but
if the town needed, say, material for its roads, it set those
on relief to breaking up stones. To the loafer, this wa> a
strong reminder of easier ways of getting money; to the
man honestly desiring work it was just the treatment he
wanted, since it recognized that he was trying to earn his
living and kept up his self-respect by giving his relief as
a return for work.

Let us skip the workhouse test. Its method was to have
labor performed inside a workhouse, in which were put
first the unemployed men and separately, their families.
The reasons for this, administrative and contraceptive, no
longer have any importance.

But a new group had to be conciliated ; and here is a
modern touch. In the North of England the early trades
union leaders feared that wages might be cut. Alfred
Power, the assistant commissioner who introduced the new
law, did it very hurriedly, and being a "Fellow of Down-
ing College," he, like some of the college professors of the
New Deal, rubbed many people the wrong way. One town,
fearing low wages, ran him out on the English equivalent
of a rail. It took hard work by Charles Mott, the prac-
tical trouble-shooter of the assistant commissioners, to get
Yorkshire and Lancashire to see that here was no attack
on wages. One of Mott's reports describes the amazement
shown by an opponent of the New Poor Law on finding
that an assistant commissioner, of whom he had heard so
much evil, was a human being. But Mott was helped by
the fact that wages actually rose, if anything, and the im-
proved efficiency in relief was highly popular.

THE work-test was the next to last stage in this nine-
teenth century relief shake-up. It was designed to
separate employables from unemployables, leaving on re-
lief the genuine unemployed and the most confirmed
slackers. Then the vagrancy and non-support laws, which
had not been functioning, could be enforced on wanderers
and those who deserted their families. Such "hard cases"
as could be redeemed by severity were so redeemed. That
was because the relief lists had got down to bedrock.

Now it frequently has been said, by the Webbs and
others, that the administrators of the New Poor Law of
1834 did not realize the problem of the psychological mis-
fit who still was left. This is putting the cart before the
horse. The psychological misfit and other problems of
poverty were uncovered by this great clearing of the
English relief rolls. Furthermore, the first great modern
attack on the problems of society sprang from this dis-

Consider the actions of Edwin Chadwick, secretary of
the Poor Law Commission. He helped organize the county
police forces of England, brought to light the scandalous
medical laws that allowed apothecaries to practice med-
icine, and roused public sentiment against the disgraceful
housing conditions of his day. Most of Engels' famous
diatribe against the conditions of the English working
class in 1844 is taken from Chadwick's Report on the



Sanitary Condition of the Working Cl;f.-c>. a government
document of 1843. Furthermore Chadwick did something
about it, a result being the establishment in 1847 of the
Central Board of Health, with control over housing and
>c\\ ;ii;e, from which the present Ministry of Health is a
lineal descendant. English education and its steadily rising
standards date from the work of an assistant commissioner,
Dr. J. P. Kay (later Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth) who
found that dispauperization cleared the path to the for-
merly concealed evil of a grossly inadequate education.

What then can the practical man glean from these facts
which the historian has set before him? First of all, he
might learn a technique for clearing relief rolls that once
worked justly, and might again be applied, in whole or in
part. This hundred-year-old remedy included, in sum-
mary : a shake-up of local control and local relief lists ;
relief given partly in food instead of money ; improvement
and cross-checking in local accounts; the end of relief
rent-.; use of a work-test; and last of all the application
of the vagrancy and non-support laws to those who had

been given every chance and had shown themselves to be
loafers. Subsequent relief, which continued after the shake-
up, was more efficient and more beneficial than before.

As a second lesson, the practical man could note that
this system required able and tactful personnel of the type
traditionally connected with the higher grades of the Eng-
lish civil service, and that by creating a need it brought
them into public administration. In fact, the present re-
quirements of the English Home Civil Service sprang
from the lessons learned by the Poor Law Commission.

Third, and most important, besides affording an argu-
ment for civil service reform, this relief technique affords
a chance of coming to grips with social problems, such close
grips that the problems are definitely measured.

If these methods gave the Rev. J. T. Becher a running
start in improving his native Nottinghamshire, and Edwin
Chadwick for improving all of England, might they not
give the practical man of today if he can apply some of
them to the current scene - a running start toward getting
things done in the United States of America?

Women Alone


UNATTACHED women on relief, an old and baf-
fling problem to social workers everywhere, recently
have been the subject of close scrutiny by the Wom-
en's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor. While the
study was made in Chicago, the problem is common in all
cities, and the recommended plan of treatment is basic.

The report,* based on a study of 604 women under sixty-
five years of age, unattached and on relief, finds the causes
of their situation in the weakening of the family group,
technological unemployment, and an increased life span
coupled with a decreased employability span. More than
three fourths of the women were over forty ("old" for job-
seekers) their ambition destroyed by general hopelessness.
On inadequate relief allowances, their shabby clothes made
job-seeking doubly difficult.

A great percentage of these women were disabled by
mental or physical illness to an extent affecting their em-
ployability. Over one fourth were totally incapacitated ;
others were suffering from conditions which under proper
medical care could be corrected, thus increasing their ability
to work. However, the report showed the impossibility of
effecting any such improvements under the present Chicago
relief set-up, handicapped by large case loads and inade-
quate administrative funds.

In spite of the widespread belief that relief rolls are com-
posed of "lazy loafers" 75 percent of the women studied
were found to have been at one time either completely self-
supporting or independent because they were adequately
supplementing a family income. The other 25 percent were
widowed housewives or others who had lost their chief
means of support through some misfortune. Of those for-
merly employed 60 percent had been in domestic and per-
sonal service, but only one eighth ever had had a job last-
ing as lon^ as five years. The longest job for 55 percent of
them had been less than two years in duration. Low wages

Unattached Women on Relief in Chicago. 1937, by Harriet A. Byrne
and Cecile Hillyer. Price 15 cent! from the superintendent of document!.
Washington, D. C.

had precluded saving for needs of illness or of old age.

Seeing a great need for more individualized treatment
which might save many of these women from becoming
permanent unemployables, the report urges an enlargement
of the relief staff so that adequate case work might be done,
with increased attention to the physical disabilities of the
women. Along with this is recommended a more scientific
classification of the employability of unattached women on
relief. For those without skills or whose former trade has
been killed by technological improvements, vocational train-
ing is suggested, with restraining for those former house-
hold employes who seem unable to get and keep jobs in a
field where jobs are actually plentiful. A study of voca-
tional opportunities was advised to include work projects
such as self-help cooperatives or goodwill industries for
those only partially employable and unlikely to regain com-
plete independence.

Because of the large number of former domestics found
among this group of lone women on relief the report sug-
gests "an intensive study of household employment with
a view to its greater security" and particularly urges the
extension of the social security program to household em-
ployes as well as improved standards for hours, wages and
working conditions.

The report describes as "wretched" the living conditions
of these women while on relief. Their average allowance
is about $22 per month ; their maximum rent allowance
$12, which rarely covers the full amount. Consequently
money from the food allowance is often used to supple-
ment rent and for other necessities. Evictions are frequent,
especially for those living in furnished rooms. To alleviate
these conditions the following recommendations are made:
larger relief allowances, especially to include the payment
of rent in full ; placement in a boarding home for those
sick or aged for whom an institution or home relief seems
unsuitable; a long range program for the permanently de-
pendent providing especially for a federal-state system of
invalidity assistance to those unemployed because of illness.




"Am I a Social Worker?"


Superintendent, Hamilton County Home and Chronic Disease Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio

EE the people on whose conversation you eaves-
dropped [see Miss Bailey Says . . . Survey Mid-
monthly, May 1938, page 169], I am puzzled
about this business of who is a social worker. I am puzzled
about my own case, for here I am, pushing aside pressing
duties of my daily job while I try to balance accounts for
the Social Workers Club of Cincinnati. If I am not a
social worker how do I happen to be chairman of the
club's ways and means committee? Am I a social worker
de facto, even though I am not eligible for membership
in the American Association of Social Workers?

Before you answer that question let's take a look at the
record, starting some thirty years back when social work
went by other names than it now does.

In 1906, as a senior medical student, I was appointed
interne at the Out-Door Obstetrical Clinic of the Ohio
Maternity Hospital where each student, prior to gradua-
tion, was required by law to see two deliveries. It was the
obligation of the two internes to bring in enough cases to
supply this requirement, about a hundred cases a year.

My colleague and I secured these cases by various
means, but our favorite was to work the markets where
women gathered to buy their daily provisions. We would
walk through the market places, empty grips in hand, until
we saw a perceptibly pregnant woman carrying a loaded
basket. We knew she wouldn't be carrying it very far, so,
gallantly, we would offer to carry it home for her, in the
meantime introducing ourselves and our wares.

From June 1906 until July 1907, my colleague and 1
delivered practically a hundred babies in Cincinnati neigh-
borhoods well known to social workers then and since. I
recall one case in the Mohawk District where three inter-
preters were used; English to German, to Hungarian, to
Polish and back again. We made our own layettes ; did
our own nursing, ironed out family difficulties and, when
necessity demanded, made our own arrangements for hos-
pital treatment. This was my initiation into one phase of
what is now called social work.

A couple of years later, with a budding private prac-
tice in a Cincinnati suburb I was appointed township
physician. I soon found that the medical treatment of in-
digents was a minor part of the job. The township physi-
cian did all the family case work and everything else that
now comes under the head of social service. He took the
medical and also the social, financial and economic history
of patient and family. He was called on not only to give
medical treatment, but to give material relief, find jobs,
"reform" unruly children and so on, all under circum-
stances that tested his ingenuity to the limit.

I remember a case, reported as "cramps," on which I
was called one bitter cold midnight. So impassable were
the roads that I had to walk the last two miles on the rail-
road track. I carried only the equipment to treat a case of
ordinary stomach distress. What I found when I reached
the crazy shack at the end of my trek was a patient well
advanced in labor. There was no time to go back for
obstetrical supplies, and the house was barren of anything
suggesting them. Finally I found a bit of string and an old


pair of scissors and put them on to boil. Just as the baby
was delivered, the one oil lamp sputtered and went out.
Using one safety pin and a few eight-penny nails I made
a binder from an old lambrequin and presently departed
to return next morning and complete my work. The case
made a beautiful recovery. Ever since, I have held that
there are some places where even a self-respecting germ
will not hang about.

After three years I was appointed district physician in a
small city near Cincinnati. Here, too, the work was as
much "social" and "welfare" as it was medical. One of
my duties was examining school children for communicable
diseases. The idea of constructive and preventive medicine
had slight foothold at that time in our city and my rec-
ommendations for the correction of physical defects met
with a sales resistance that today's workers do not know.

However, these were profitable days from an educa-
tional viewpoint. When you undress a school child for a
physical examination you learn many things, for the con-
dition of the child and its apparel often gives a clearer pic-
ture of the home environment and conditions than an
actual call would disclose.

In January 1913, I was appointed physician at the Ham-
ilton County Infirmary. Here again it was my job to han-
dle much of the work now done by the Social Service
Department, such as the investigation of the physical, so-
cial, economic and political status of the applicants.

BEGINNING in 1916, came three and a half years spent
in various parts of the United States, France and
Belgium, in the uniform of the United States Army. But
even under these circumstances I did not find myself en-
tirely divorced from social work. There was the Mexican
settlement that I had to clean up and make 'em like it; the
company of seventy illiterate Negroes whom I taught to
write their names. In France there were endless personality
difficulties to be dealt with officers, nurses, soldiers, citi-
zens, local authorities. In the village where our hospital was
situated tensions of many months' standing with our
French employes were dissolved when one of our doctors,
who didn't fit in the army and wanted to be a pediatri-
cian, was assigned to operate a baby clinic for the offspring
of those employes and their relatives. The thinly veiled
animosity of the local gendarmes toward us melted away
when we opened our canteen to them. I could tell plenty
of case stories and I am sure that r.i;r modern case workers
would recognize the various "fhcraji.'cs"' employed.

For nine years, from 1920 thiu:;;': 1928, I was health
commissioner of Hamilton Count., , Ohio's second most
populous county. Here I was operating in that twilight
zone between public health and public welfare but my
constant associates were people actively engaged in rec-
ognized, organized social work.

The extent of the overlapping between public health
and public welfare work may be illustrated by a story
that began with a child who. under the regular school ex-
amination, showed indications of incipient tuberculosis. A
public health nurse followed the case to the home. The


father, we found, had advanced tuberculosis, two of the
five children had active tuberculosis and one showed evi-
dence of the onset of the disease. The other two children
and the mother were in dire need of constant supervision.
Arrangements were made to send the father to the tuber-
culous sanatorium and, while he was undergoing treat-
ment, to secure a mother's pension for the family. Every-
thing seemed settled when the family reneged and said
that the father would remain at home. Why ? Because, as
we at length discovered, there had been no marriage cere-
mony and the family was not eligible for the mother's pen-
sion. A ceremony was indicated, but the parents objected
because of what neighbors might say and because the chil-
dren "would be hollered at in school."

We then secured for them a special P.D.P. (please don't
publish) license and I bespoke the services of my old army
chaplain to perform the ceremony. The wedding arrange-
ments were all set, but again the participants balked, this
time on religious grounds. The mother's people were Bible-
belt Protestants, the father's were Catholic. Both sides of
the house, or so it seemed, could "take" the fact of the
five illegitimate children but not the formality of a wed-

Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesSurvey midmonthly : journal of social work (Volume 74) → online text (page 75 of 109)