Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 1, Number 1, Spring, 1989 Page: 20
This periodical is part of the collection entitled: Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas and was provided to The Portal to Texas History by the Dallas Historical Society.
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The Forgotten Frontier
Dallas Women and Social Caring, 1895-1920
By Elizabeth York Enstam
INFANTS ABANDONED at birth, babies dying
for lack of proper food and medical care,
women lying sick and hungry in shanties, men
unable to find work and reduced to begging from
door to door, children growing up in tents
without basic training, much less schoolingsuch
images are not the stuff for legends,
especially in the history of a vital, growing city.
Yet Dallas has seen its share of such distressing
scenes, and for many years neither private nor
public agencies existed to help the community's
most vulnerable members. To be sure, from the
city's earliest times concerned individuals helped
the unfortunate and attempted to ease their suffering.
But only late in the nineteenth century did
Dallas citizens begin as a community to face the
existence of poverty and to work realistically
against its terrible effects on people's lives.
Women led in that work. Many of these concerned
women belonged to literary and culture
clubs, and they added charitable projects to their
regular weekly discussions of books, music, or
history. Within a quarter of a century they
founded and operated a hospital, a shelter, and
a non-sectarian settlement house, plus
kindergartens, day nurseries, medical clinics, and
milk stations, all free of charge to those unable
to pay. Intended specifically for children, these
organizations often helped entire families as well
and in the process, performed social services
otherwise unavailable in Dallas. Of the institutions
which women founded before 1920, three
still operate in 1989: the Dallas Baby Camp (as
part of Children's Medical Center), Hope Cottage,
and the Dallas Free Kindergartens (as Child
Before the twentieth century public aid was
sparse anywhere in Texas. The state provided
pensions to veterans and their widows and
sometimes to others who applied to the
legislature for help. As in other areas of the
South, Dallas's main source of charity was the
poor farm established by the county in 1876.
Those who were truly destitute could find shelter
and work there, while meager amounts of public
money were available for lesser degrees of need.
Both Dallas and Dallas County maintained small
relief funds, with such aid distributed only after
inspection by a policeman allowed the applicant
to be officially designated a pauper. Transients
Photograph above: The "psychology of play"
was both studied and applied by the settlement
workers of the Dallas Free Kindergarten and Industrial
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Dallas County Heritage Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 1, Number 1, Spring, 1989, periodical, 1989; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35122/m1/22/: accessed June 3, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.