The Survey: Social or Sociological?


Thesis Process

The story of the rise and fall of the social survey parallels that of the rise and fall of womens’ contributions to early sociological theory and practice. Some recent scholarship (Deegan, MacLean and Williams, Sklar) has focused on this subject in greater depth in its implications for the profession of social work. But in this case the diminishment also has strong implications of the strategic elimination of women’s contributions to the renaissance period of the “New Museum” at the turn of the 20th century, which has not been explored at any length in scholarly literature. One of the key innovations on sociological study spearheaded by settlement residents was its usability as empathetic, reform-aimed exhibition data. The move away from conducting studies as an attempt to influence legislative action erased the memory and performance of these innovative methods in sociological use and effectively ended the popular exhibition impulse within the sociology field for at least several decades.

This story has been told previously through the lens of events that occurred in Chicago, and like much of the existing literature on settlements, Hull-House plays an important role. I will reitierate and expand upon this existing analysis because of its well-documented nature and significant, nationwide impact. The robust personal and professional networks of women reformers and settlement staff, as well as the outsized impact of the University of Chicago department of sociology on the national practice of the discipline, make this a micro history with macro implications. Ok, that’s the intro.

Part 2: Settlement innovations

The story begins in 1895, with the publication of the groundbreaking Hull-House Maps and Papers, a collection of social surveys produced by the residents of Chicago’s Hull-House. Also in this year, Graham Taylor was moved to begin offering lecture programs in the training of social workers at Chicago Commons, a “twin to the old Hull-House.” [When did Addams become president of National Conf on Charities and Corrections?] Sklar argues that it has not received enough attention; it was diverse in subject, it had multiple reputable authors; it championed statistics as data sources alongside its interpretation in terms of philosophy and personal experience; it was intended for general consumption and even the maps came in each edition; it especially revolutionized the portrayal of data in the form of maps, which “conveyed more than information. They also communicated moral imperatives, [Sklar, “Hull-House Maps and Papers: Social Science as Women’s Work in the 1890s”, 123] which put urgent weight behind them. The residents of Hull-House and other settlements understood the power of data exhibition [Wade, “The Heritage from Chicago’s Early Settlement Houses,” 418, 434]. They meant to “translate facts into social action” and they embedded themselves in local institutions to ensure it [Wade, “Heritage,” 417, 421]

The other, parallel innovation alongside the social survey was the creation of a social welfare training school by Graham Taylor of the Chicago Commons. The school, which would be become known as the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, had its roots in professional lectures carried on at Chicago Commons. The school’s research laboratory was begun in 1907 with a grant from Russell Sage Foundation, and its Social Museum was founded in 1910 on the example of the Harvard Social Museum. His was not the first social service training school, but it closely connected the various progressives and settlement workers in Chicago across institutions and underscored an education in field work as imperative to the burgeoning professional social worker. Taylor himself was embedded within Chicago institutions: he taught in the extension department of U of Chicago from 1902 to 1908 and served as director of the Chicago Public Library after 1906 [Wade, Graham Taylor, 127]. The CSCP offered classes on exhibition, data collection, etc and also put out a guidebook to help groups make their own exhibit in addition to renting them out.

Part 3: The reformist ends and means

The exhibits worked. Examples of legislative reform brought on by the settlements of the time [Wade, “Heritage”] Embeddedness in various city departments spread demand for surveys

Part 4: Criticism of social survey

But the social reform end-goal aspect of the social survey as deployed by settlements was distasteful to some, who decried it as inconsistent in results and method; unscientific in its subjectivity; and overly politicized. Not all criticisms contained all three aspects; for example, Park criticized the subjectivity and reform ends, but didn’t have much to say about the method, since he completely ignored it. Jeter criticized the method and inconsistency but embraced the reform ends.

Part 5: Social science research in flux

Wade shares Jean Adams’s opinion that the Russian Revolution and the world war changed the trajectory of social work away from the goal of social reform as well as toward the sirens call of professional status, an action which has ramifications for the development of the discipline that radiate down today (“Heritage,” 437-438).

Institutional changes, especially the closing of the CSCP/ integration as GSSSA at U Chicago.

Professionalization and the diminishment of women- dismissing their contributions (men), folding their methods into those of men and then the networks disappear (women). Everybody contributed to the decline.