Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 1, Number 1, Spring, 1989 Page: 22
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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organization with community-wide support, its
origins lay in the private sector, but both city
and county governments allocated regular donations
of public money to its programs. With its
careful evaluation of all appeals by a mounted
policeman assigned at city expense, the United
Charities remained within traditional bounds to
the "deserving" poor only. But it supplemented
the city's limited program by providing help
regardless of an applicant's ethnic background
or personal acquaintance with church or
synagogue members. For all the regard it enjoyed,
however, the United Charities' limited
resources could not meet the varied and
widespread needs of Dallas residents. Instead,
women, as individuals and as members of clubs,
created new ways to expand the range and types
of aid available to the poor in Dallas.
Compared with basic survival, the lack of
day care for children was a secondary matter,
even for mothers supporting their families alone.
Yet, in the late 1890s this problem first drew
clubwomen into social involvement. A decade
earlier, when the Woman's Home opened its
doors to indigent and wage earning women, it
offered care for young children during their
mothers' working hours. The Woman's Home
and Day Nursery operated from 1886 until 1905,
but could not begin to meet the need for child
care in Dallas. In 1897 another group of women
opened a day nursery which later became the St.
Matthew's Home for Children. Around the same
time, a third day nursery operated near the cotton
Day nurseries provided safe, clean places for
young children to spend the day, but such care
included no lessons or educational experiences.
During the 1890s conviction grew that the very
early childhood years were important to an individual's
development, and several private
kindergartens opened in Dallas. By 1894 middle
class women were convinced that the children
of poor families especially needed kindergarten
classes, not only for pre-school education, but
also for basic instruction in the principles of good
health and personal hygiene. By teaching the
rules of social and ethical behavior,
kindergartens could begin the socialization of immigrant
children into American ways. After failing
to get kindergartens opened in the public
schools, three groups of women who were
already running free kindergartens in poor
neighborhoods organized the Dallas Free
Kindergarten Association in 1900.
Members of the Association soon found
themselves drawn into social services much
beyond the daily operation of free kindergartens.
Work with the children made clubwomen aware
of the conditions in which those youngsters
lived. In order to expand help to entire families,
in 1903 the Dallas Free Kindergarten Association
opened Neighborhood House, a nonsectarian settlement
house near downtown, on Cedar Springs
near Harwood. Neighborhood House's first service
was the Clara Chaison Kindergarten, which
enrolled children from Polish and Russian Jewish
families, as well as those of German, French, and
English origins. By 1905, with two additional
kindergartens in operation, the Association
enrolled more than 370 youngsters.
In addition to the kindergarten and a training
school for kindergarten teachers, the
neighborhood center housed eight social
workers. These young women made between
forty and sixty calls each month into the poor
areas of Dallas to help immigrants and other indigent
newcomers. After Neighborhood House
moved to Collins Street, they organized and
Weaving at Neighborhood House
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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/m1/24/: accessed June 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.