Helen Storrow - Philanthropic Endeavors and Social Reform - Further Club and Settlement Work

Further Club and Settlement Work

In addition to her work with the North Bennet school and the Saturday Girls Club, Helen and her husband helped found numerous social and charitable organizations in Boston between 1900 and 1930.

In 1903, they helped found the West End House, a club for boys, mainly immigrants, providing classes and lectures on numerous subjects, including history, literature and physical education. Begun as a settlement house, it now serves as a Boys and Girls Club. In 1908, the Storrows provided the boys at West End House with a summer camp in East Parsonfield, Maine. West End House, like the Saturday Evening Girls Club, aimed to keep youths in poor immigrant neighborhoods off the streets, by providing them with educational and recreational opportunities. Their athletics contests gained both wide popularity and participation:

"A central feature of the West End House was the development of a number of athletic teams and contests. West End House teams helped to increase neighborhood solidarity through the development of a string of intracity rivalries...The Thanksgiving day race was a community event in the West End. Huge crowds lined the streets to watch the boys run for neighborhood glory...".

Another of her husband’s endeavors was the Boston Newsboy’s Club, which he played a prominent role in founding, in 1909. The club's stated mission: "To befriend in every possible way the newsboys and other boys of the city of Boston, without distinction as to race, color, or creed." As with the Storrows' other clubs, it provided Newsboys - youths who were then a common sight, selling newspapers on corners throughout the city - with an outlet for education and recreation, helping the boys graduate high school, and in some instances, go on to attend university.

Frustrated by the monotony of the activities sponsored by most women’s clubs in Boston, in 1913, Helen founded the Women’s City Club, “to promote a broad acquaintance among women through their common interest in the welfare of the city…” She served as the club’s first president. Her goal was to gather members from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, allowing for a diversity of views, to discuss relevant political and social issues.

The Storrows supported America’s entry into the First World War, and Helen presided over the War Service Committee organized by the Women's City Club, raising funds for the war effort. At the war's end, the Storrows converted their summer home into a sanatorium for wounded soldiers:

"J. J. Storrow has given his country residence, Storrow Farm, Lincoln, with the adjacent buildings and sixteen acres of land, for a Lincoln convalescent hospital for enfeebled and crippled soldiers. The services of several employees, such furniture as can be utilized, care of the grounds, heating, lighting, and the like are included in the gift. A staff of women doctors and nurses have volunteered for service, and a war service committee of the Women's City Club, of which Mrs. Storrow was first president, is aiding to raise fund and equipment."

Towards the end of her life, as the result of her brother’s activism, Helen became interested in the cause of prison reform. To promote this cause, in 1930, she founded and served as president of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Tom Brown House.

By the 1920s, the city hall in Auburn, New York, had become extremely dilapidated. Helen and her sister Emily offered to donate a new city hall to Auburn in their father’s memory. They hired prominent Boston architects Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch & Abbott; construction began in 1929. The dedication was held on April 5, 1930:

"Thousands of people filled the street surrounding the hall. Flags and streamers floated in the breeze. The Star-Spangled Banner opened the event, played by the Boys Band, and America closed it. The program was broadcast on WSYR Syracuse, and amplifiers were placed above city streets. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts served as escorts to the dignitaries, which included Storrow, Osborne's son and current mayor Charles Devens Osborne, Syracuse Mayor Rolland B. Martin and a number of state politicians."

During her final years, Helen traveled frequently to Bermuda. As a gesture of her goodwill toward the island, she funded an annual scholarship allowing a student from Bermuda to study at Harvard.

In 1931, Helen donated one million dollars to the State of Massachusetts to complete the development of the Charles River Basin, in which her husband had been involved prior to his death. It was largely due to the efforts of Helen and James Storrow that the Charles River Basin was landscaped and turned into a recreational area during the 1930s.

America suffered an acute housing shortage in the years following the First World War. In response the Better Homes in America Movement was initiated. It was a nationwide campaign to promote home ownership, beautification, and the modernization of housing. Helen joined this movement, and detailed efforts to expand the movement to include African American families in an article she authored in 1931 for the Urban League.

One cause Helen never actively championed was women's suffrage, most likely, because her husband was opposed to it.

Read more about this topic:  Helen Storrow, Philanthropic Endeavors and Social Reform

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