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Denison House

Illustration from Annual Report for the Year Ending October 1st, 1913, by Denison House, a Boston College Settlement.
Illustration from Annual Report for the Year Ending October 1st, 1913, by Denison House, a Boston College Settlement.

In 1892, Emily Greene Balch, a professor at Wellesley College, and several Wellesley graduates founded Denison House, a settlement house at 93 Tyler Street in Boston. Like Jane Addams's Hull-House in Chicago, the purpose of Denison House was to provide social services and education to the urban poor by having educated women and poor people live together in the same residence. Denison House was the hub of many neighborhood activities and social services: classes in nursing, English literature, dancing, and basket-weaving; sports and activities for girls and boys; clubs for adults; and relief programs, including coal distribution and free milk. Denison House also had a library, gymnasium, and clinic that enhanced the quality of life in the Old South Cove area of Boston.

Many of the recipients of Denison House's services were Italian, Syrian, and Greek immigrants. There was an especially strong relationship between Denison House and the Italian-American community. Under the auspices of Denison House, Circolo Italo-Americano, an Italian-American organization, held an annual cultural festival every May and an exhibition of Italian arts and crafts every December.

The most famous resident was trailblazing pilot Amelia Earhart, who worked as a social worker at Denison House for two years beginning in 1926. Earhart worked as a teacher and helped to generate publicity for Denison House's mission by dropping pamphlets over Boston to advertise benefit events.

In the 1940s, Denison House relocated to Dorchester, Massachusetts, before being merged with three other settlement houses in 1965 to create the Federated Dorchester Neighborhood Houses (FDNH). The FDNH continues to provide social services to immigrants, carrying on the legacy of Emily Greene Balch, Amelia Earhart, and other social workers of Denison House.

Archival Materials Digitized for the Immigration to the US Collection

Records, 1892–1911.

Series III. Daily activity reports, folders 72–77: includes entries by Helen Cheever, Emily G. Balch, Lucinda Wyman Prince, et al.

Series III. Circolo Italo-Americano; disassembled scrapbook: includes pamphlets, fliers, newsletter, programs, folders 80–86

Full Collection Citation

Denison House Records. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College.

Electronic Finding Aid

Denison House. Records, 1890–1984: A Finding Aid. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College.

Publications Digitized for the Immigration to the US Collection

Denison House. Denison House: Information to Candidates for Residence. Boston: Denison House, 1900.

Denison House. Directory of Clubs and Classes. Boston: Allied Print Trades Council, 1903.

Denison House. Report of the Denison House Milk Station. Boston: s.n., 1910.

Denison House. Denison House Benefit: Jordan Hall, December 12, 1911. Boston: s.n., 1911.

The Boston College Settlement: Annual Report. Boston: College Settlements Association, 1912.

Denison House. Annual Report for the Year Ending. Boston: H.A. MacDonald & Co., 1913.

Denison House. Denison House: Brochure. Boston: s.n., 1913.

Other Resources

The manuscript and archival materials selected for Immigration to the US can be used for research, for the creation of class projects, or to provide a deeper context for exploring topics documented in published works. In some cases the items are drawn from larger collections at Harvard. Most of the digitized selections from collections contain a range of materials providing a broader context for understanding the subject.