In Her Own Right

Octavia Hill Association (Philadelphia, Pa.) Records

Date range 1880 – 1970
Creator Octavia Hill Association
Abstract The Octavia Hill Association was incorporated in 1896 to improve working class housing conditions through the sympathetic management of dwellings which it purchased and renovated. The Association's activities were modeled after the work in London of Octavia Hill, with whom one of its founders, Helen Parrish, had studied. These records contain the personal diaries, correspondence, and notes of Helen Parrish (1888-1943), as well as reports, legislative files, correspondence, publications, and clippings of the Octavia Hill Association (1880-1970). Also included are glass lantern slides, negatives, and photographic reprints relating to the Association's properties and community activities, and depicting housing interiors and exteriors before and after renovations, court yards, and street scenes around Philadelphia.
Description The diaries detail Helen Parrish's "friendly visits" to her tenants. Like other early social welfare work, these visits were incredibly invasive, policing tenants' sexual behavior, childcare practices, financial decisions, and drinking habits. Race relations, especially interracial relationships, come up frequently. Interestingly, unlike social welfare programs aimed exclusively at women (mothers' pensions, for example, and, later, ADC), Parrish policed the behavior of both men and women. She mentions many of the same people several times, making it possible for researchers to trace their stories. Correspondence is mostly incoming, including several letters from Octavia Hill and her sister, Miranda. Notes and speeches go the furthest in documenting the influences on Parrish and the OHA, as well as their very specific vision for how best to practice charity. Meanwhile, subseries on legislative involvement and speeches, conferences, and reports best document the actions the OHA pursued.
Research interest It is rare for historical figures to lay out their thoughts, influences, and goals so explicitly. Helen Parrish emerges as a figure as complex and compelling as Jane Addams, one whose life and work encapsulate the central paradox of Progressivism as both altruistic and coercive. This collection thus adds new evidence to the perennial debate over which characteristic more fundamentally describes this movement. Moreover, these papers reveal Philadelphia to be a city as important to Progressive reform as New York and Chicago, not only within the US but also as a hub in the transatlantic circulation of Progressive ideas.
Size 8.25 lf
Full collection description Home repository description for Octavia Hill Association (Philadelphia, Pa.) Records
View full item http://library.temple.edu/scrc/octavia-hill-association
Contributing institution Temple University Libraries
Digital materials View items from the Octavia Hill Association (Philadelphia, Pa.) Records