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Jacob Riis in the Progressive Era

A presentation on the title.
by

Philip Pickering

on 19 October 2012

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Transcript of Jacob Riis in the Progressive Era

by: Philip Pickering Jacob Riis: Savior of the Slums Jacob Riis crusaded for the establishment of settlement houses, public parks and playgrounds, and other reforms to improve the lives of those in New York City's slums. Jacob Riis was born on May 3, 1849 in Ribe, Denmark. His father was a Latin school teacher, and educated Jacob. Jacob showed a sensitive disposition and a faith in people from early on that would sustain him through difficult days ahead. Trained in carpentry, he emigrated to New York in 1870 under the hopes of making his fortune. Bitter experiences full of poverty, menial jobs and ill-treatment followed, but did these not taint his hopeful outlook. In 1874 he became editor of the South Brooklyn News and began developing his skills as a reporter. In 1877 he joined the New York Tribune and was assigned to the Police Department in the slums of the lower East Side. Starting Out Jacob's early life and his activities with the police headquarters eventually led to his major life’s work: cleaning up the slum's of New York City. After investigating crime scene after crime scene in pursuit of stories for his job as a reporter, the appalling condition of the New York City tenements struck disgust in Riis. Over and over again his sensitive heart was exposed to these conditions. Finally, he took it upon himself to do something about it. Seeing his efforts through the newspaper weren't enough, he used the skills he had developed and proceeded to write books, orchestrate lectures and organize rallies and support for the relief of the poor. In widely read books, he pictured the life of the poor, especially of their children. He possessed great deals of energy which is why he was able to expose as much as he did about the slums. Reporter plus Exposing the Neglect Due to the horrors described in works such as How the Other Half Lives (1890), Out of Mulberry Street (1898), The Battle with the Slum (1902), and Children of the Tenement (1903), many progressive changes occurred in the slums all for the better of those living in them. A famous exposure was the contaminated state of the city's water supply, which subsequently caused the purchase of the Croton watershed. He pushed for the abolition of police station lodging-houses. Riis secured a truant school, worked for child-labor laws and their enforcement, and fought for secure playgrounds for schools as well as the opening of classrooms to boys' and girls' clubs. He forced the destruction of rear-tenements, and demanded light for dark tenement hallways. He even went to the extent as to drive bake-shops from tenement basements. Perhaps his most self-satisfying endeavor was wiping out the Mulberry Bend, the worst tenement block in the city, and the building in its place of Mulberry Bend Park and his own Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood House in 1888. Definite Action Riis had acquired numerous powerful enemies during his struggle, many of which were allied hordes of politicians and the landlords he was cracking down on. One of his chief supporters and friends was Theodore Roosevelt, who might as well have been his brother in flesh as well as in spirit. Both as governor and president, Roosevelt offered his friend high office; but Riis insisted he was too busy to enter politics. In his later years Riis enjoyed a fame which overwhelmed him with invitations to write, lecture, and lead public movements of reform. Suddenly, in 1904, he was stricken with heart disease which in succeeding years was aggravated by much travel and persistent overwork. Jacob Riis died in his country home, at Barre, Mass., on May 26, 1914. On Mar. 5, 1876, Riis had married Elizabeth Nielsen, of Ribe, a sweetheart of his boyhood. She died in 1905, but their five children, three sons and two daughters, survived him. On July 29, 1907, he married Mary A. Phillips, who had for some time been his secretary. Results + End of Life By any stretch of the word, Jacob Riis was a muckraker. Riis was throughout his life natural, spontaneous, unspoiled, always the most jovial and exciting of companions. His unrestrained exuberance was often mistaken for roughness or crudity, but his heart contained the tenderness of a woman and the sensitivity of a child. His driving force was the spectacle of helpless human beings robbed of the joy of living which was his own richest treasure. Called a reformer, he disliked the word, as it seemed to imply the improving of people. He believed that the poor he knew needed not a change but a chance. So he aspired to free them, and thus was born the "great emancipator" of the slums. Over time the conditions of the slums improved, and a chain reaction spread to other cities. For the first time politicians were listening to the cries of the impoverished, and Jacob Riis was most certainly one of their loudest voices. In Summary Jacob Riis How the Other Half Lives: An 1886 Jacob A. Riis photograph shows men sleeping on the floor of a New York homeless shelter. A picture taken by Jacob Riis titled "Madonna of the Slums," in New York, New York, 1890 Jacob Riis photographed the poor of New York and wrote about their plight. Den of Crime. This c. 1888 photograph by Jacob Riis, renowned crusader against urban slums, shows an alley known as "Bandit's Roost," off Mulberry Street in lower Manhattan. All of these statements happened to some extent.
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