Lesson 15-2 Urban Life
The Main Idea
In cities in the late 1800s, people in the upper, middle, and
lower classes lived different kinds of lives because of their
different economic situations.
• How did American cities change in the late 1800s?
• How did class differences affect the way urban dwellers lived?
• How did the settlement house movement work to improve living
conditions for immigrants and poor Americans?
American Cities Change
• Compact cities
– Before industrialization, cities had no tall buildings and
most people lived within walking distance of their work,
schools, shops, and churches. In the late 1880s, they ran
out of room and started to build up.
• Tall buildings and transportation
– Steel frames and Elisha Otis’s safety elevator made
taller buildings possible. With mass transit, people
moved farther away.
• Green spaces
– Urban planning was used to map out the best use of
space in cities. Frederick Law Olmsted designed city
parks to provide residents with countryside. New York’s
Central Park is his most famous endeavor.
The wealthy in America inherited fortunes, but they made
them from industry and business as well.
The newly rich made a point of conspicuously displaying
their wealth. Grand city houses and magnificent country
estates were commonplace.
•1870’s to 1890’s sometimes called “The Gilded Age”
High-society women read instructional literature detailing
proper behavior. The ideal woman was a homemaker who
organized and decorated her home; entertained visitors and
supervised her staff; and offered moral and social guidance
to her family.
Some women lent their time and money to social reform
The middle class
• The urban middle class grew
as jobs for accountants,
clerks, managers, and
• Educated workers like
teachers, engineers, lawyers,
and doctors were needed.
• The rise of professionalism
required standardized skills
and qualifications for certain
• Married women managed a
home. With time for other
activities, some participated
in reform work or other
activities, expanding their
influence to the outside
The working class
• Many lived in poverty, with a
growing population keeping
• Housing shortages led to
crowded and unsanitary
• Housekeeping was difficult;
with no indoor plumbing,
water had to be hauled inside
from a pump.
• Clothes were boiled on the
stove and hung on lines to
• Many women also worked
low-paying jobs outside the
• Contagious diseases were a problem
• Jacob Riis wrote book How the Other Half
– About tenement living
– Documented his reporting using flash
• Fires were a constant threat
• Great Chicago Fire in 1871
• View photos
The Settlement House Movement
• London reformers
– Founded the first settlement house in 1884. Volunteers provided a
variety of services to people in need.
– They taught skills people could use to lift themselves from poverty.
• Hull House
– Jane Addams founded Hull House, one of the first settlement houses
in the U.S., and the movement spread quickly. The movement gave
women the opportunity to lead, organize, and work for others.
• Religious views
– The Social Gospel was the idea that religious faith should be
expressed through good works and that churches had a moral duty to
help solve society’s problems.
– Social Darwinists disagreed; they felt people were poor because of their