Robert A. Woods

  • The Zone of Emergence, Second Edition

    Observations of the Lower Middle and Upper Working Class Communities of Boston, 1905-1914

    Robert A. Woods and Albert J. Kennedy

    One of a series of studies written by workers in Boston's settlement houses, The Zone of Emergence explores life in the city's residential and industrial communities—Roxbury, Dorchester, East Cambridge, and South Boston among others. During the years in which these papers were written—between 1905 and 1914—Robert Woods was the head worker in Boston's South End House and Albert Kennedy a South End-Harvard fellow and then, in 1911, the director of investigation for the House. The other workers concerned themselves with the ills of the very poor. Woods and Kennedy chose instead to study the rising-toward-middle class and its neighborhoods, where “the air is brighter, cleaner, and more vibrant; sunshine falls in floods rather than in narrow shafts.... It is hoped that these pages will show that from an economic, a political, and a cultural point of view, the districts immediately between the old city and the suburbs constitute a single sociological fact with a sharply defined significance and appeal.”

    Though the authors never abandoned this goal, the facts were not with them, and in their admittedly peripheral visions and solutions suggested only in passing, they have argued well for the widespread disillusionment with middle-class life which is so distinctly a development of the late 1960's. “The over-use of drink is the great fault of the zone,” they write, a fact they punctuate with the ratio of saloons to population; then, “Crime among children seems on the increase, and there is a spirit of lawlessness among the American-born children of immigrants which argues badly for the future.... There should be some means of making punishment to be feared and dreaded.”

    The authors, who went on to become the president and secretary, respectively, of the National Federation of Settlements, never published this work, neglecting even to complete preliminary prepublication editing. The war and its confusion were partially responsible for this. Yet Albert Kennedy, rereading the manuscript some forty years later, and Sam Bass Warner, Jr., in his extensive critical preface, suggest a further reason when they characterize the book as an attempt on the part of its youthful authors to confront a problem which their Anglo-Protestant ethic was unable to handle. The authors document, says Warner, “a central crisis in twentieth-century American life.”

    First published in 1962 by the Joint Center for Urban Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

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