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Lay Catholic Social Reform Groups Get Their Due

Speak of Progressive Era reform groups and most people will reflexively think of Protestant efforts like settlement houses, charitable aid societies, and temperance crusades. In the Progressive Era, though, Catholic laity also formed active voluntary organizations to work for temperance, rural colonization (resettlement of urban immigrants to rural areas), port programs (assistance for newly arrived immigrants), charitable aid, and urban neighborhood improvement (settlements). The considerable contribution of Catholics to social reform and charitable works has been neglected in much of the scholarly literature about Progressive Era reform groups. Even the literature on temperance advocacy mentions the sizable Catholic Total Abstinence movement only in fleeting references, if at all. Moreover, the few works that have discussed Catholic lay reform efforts have concentrated on single lay groups (Philip Gleason's Conservative Reformers and Christopher Kauffman's Faith and Fraternalism) or a single city (Paula Kane's Separation and Subculture). The 1997 study by Brown and McKeown, The Poor Belong to Us, examines Catholic social reform but focuses on that organized by the Church, not by the laity.

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