Most of the articles that follow reflect the faith, so widely shared in the decades straddling the turn of the century, that poverty could be alleviated and social problems resolved if American citizens could be led, through objective reporting and scientific analysis, to recognize the nature of social injustice. Empirical knowledge would be the spur to social action in behalf of the dispossessed. An elite drawn from the professional middle class--social workers, journalists, lawyers, experts in economics and political science, doctors and nurses--shared this faith in research and publicity and frequently worked together. An aroused citizenry would pressure politicians and government to do the right thing--for the poor and oppressed, and for the republic. One philanthropic organization that dedicated itself to these causes was the Russell Sage Foundation, which subsidized many of the studies reproduced in this anthology.

Concerned citizens found common ground for reform in a variety of voluntary associations dedicated to the regeneration of America, notable among them such organizations as the National Consumers' League, the Women's Trade Union League, the National Federation of Settlements, the American Association for Labor Legislation, the Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and (eventually) the American Civil Liberties Union. The concerns that moved these groups found expression in a number of journals, some of which are excerpted in the pieces printed below. Among the more influential of these journals was the publication of the New York Charity Organization Society which appeared in these years under a variety of titles--the Charities Review, Charities and Commons, and the Survey.

There persisted, of course, a wide chasm of class, race, ethnicity, and religion between these middle-class, native-born progressives, on the one hand, and the immigrant and working class persons who populated the Lower East Side. Reform could soften the consequences of an exploitive economic system, but without more fundamental structural changes in society social justice was difficult to achieve.

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