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Almost Worthy: The Poor, Paupers, and the Science of Charity in America, 1877-1917

Overview

In the 1880s, social reform leaders warned that the "unworthy" poor were taking charitable relief intended for the truly deserving. Armed with statistics and confused notions of evolution, these "scientific charity" reformers founded organizations intent on limiting access to relief by the most morally, biologically, and economically unfit. Brent Ruswick examines a prominent national organization for scientific social reform and poor relief in Indianapolis in order to understand how these new theories of poverty ...

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Almost Worthy: The Poor, Paupers, and the Science of Charity in America, 1877-1917

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Overview

In the 1880s, social reform leaders warned that the "unworthy" poor were taking charitable relief intended for the truly deserving. Armed with statistics and confused notions of evolution, these "scientific charity" reformers founded organizations intent on limiting access to relief by the most morally, biologically, and economically unfit. Brent Ruswick examines a prominent national organization for scientific social reform and poor relief in Indianapolis in order to understand how these new theories of poverty gave birth to new programs to assist the poor.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

"Ruswick's well-researched monograph traces the history of the charity organization society in the US from its origins in the Gilded Age to its merging with social work in the Progressive Era.... Recommended." —Choice

H-SHGAPE

"Almost Worthy offers a lot of interesting detail pulled from COS case files, professional conference proceedings, journals of the field, and more; some possibly fruitful hypotheses about what to make of changes in COS approaches over time; thoughtful new propositions about the relationship between scientific charity and eugenics (including some charity reformers’ apparent remorse); and a fresh, new mini-biography of Oscar McCulloch interspersed throughout." —H-SHGAPE

Choice

"Ruswick's well-researched monograph traces the history of the charity organization society in the US from its origins in the Gilded Age to its merging with social work in the Progressive Era.... Recommended." —Choice

From the Publisher

"Almost Worthy offers a lot of interesting detail pulled from COS case files, professional conference proceedings, journals of the field, and more; some possibly fruitful hypotheses about what to make of changes in COS approaches over time; thoughtful new propositions about the relationship between scientific charity and eugenics (including some charity reformers’ apparent remorse); and a fresh, new mini-biography of Oscar McCulloch interspersed throughout." —H-SHGAPE

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Brent Ruswick is Assistant Professor of History at West Chester University. He is currently researching a book on the "mutual aid" theory of evolution in American reform.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1. Introduction: Big Moll and the Science of Scientific Charity
2. "Armies of Vice": Evolution, Heredity, and the Pauper Menace
3. Friendly Visitors or Scientific Investigators? Befriending and Measuring the Poor
4. Opposition, Depression, and the Rejection of Pauperism
5. "I See No Terrible Army": Environmental Reform and Radicalism in the Scientific Charity Movement
6 The Potentially Normal Poor: Professional Social Work, Psychology, and the End of Scientific Charity
Epilogue
Bibliography
Index

Indiana University Press

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