Women and Gender Seminar: Anya Jabour, University of Montana and Bridget O'Rourke, Elmhurst College

Women and Gender Seminar
Friday, November 12, 2010

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Reform and Immigration in Chicago: Hull-House Alumnae in Action

“The Professor and the Prostitute: Sophonisba Breckinridge and the Morals Court in Depression-Era Chicago”
Anya Jabour, University of Montana

In 1930, Sophonisba Breckinridge, Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, launched a campaign to investigate and reform legal procedures in the Morals Court, a specialized municipal court established to deal with accused prostitutes. Hailed as a model progressive reform at the time of its inception in 1913, by 1930 the Morals Court was plagued by routine violations of due process as well as charges of police corruption and institutionalized racism. Breckinridge1s campaign to secure civil rights for accused prostitutes offers a new perspective on the politics of prostitution and on feminist activism in the interwar period.

“Hilda Satt Polacheck (1882-1967): Worker, Writer, ‘Hull House Girl’ ”
Bridget K. O’Rourke, Elmhurst College

Hilda Satt Polacheck is best known as the author of I Came a Stranger: The Story of a
Hull-House Girl. The only known memoir of Hull-House written by an immigrant woman, I Came a Stranger focused on how Hilda Satt “became an American” at the Hull-House
settlement.

Since its posthumous publication in 1989, the memoir has been viewed for the most part uncritically, as a realistic representation of an immigrant woman’s experiences at America’s most influential social settlement. This essay seeks to understand Hilda Polacheck’s historical contribution in light of a more comprehensive biography of the subject, particularly her mid-century development as a writer.  The events of the last third of Polacheck’s life (1939-1967), which are not addressed in the autobiographical account, shed light on the rhetorical context that gave rise to the memoir for which she is best known, and illuminate the collective purposes of her cultural production.

Commentator: Rima Lunin Schultz, Independent Scholar