Lending a Helping Hand: Social Settlement of Omaha

Black and white photograph of a group of children under a tree near a playground. RG5337b001f002i0025

Founded in 1908, the Social Settlement of Omaha was created to help immigrant families acclimate to American life. To participate in the settlement, at least one family member had to be employed at the Omaha Stockyards. The purpose was to teach immigrant families the duties and values of being an American citizen.

Newly digitized at History Nebraska, this collection highlights American citizenship in the first half of the 20th century in Omaha, Nebraska. Here, you can view the finding aid to the manuscript collection, which holds board meeting notes and Settlement diaries.

The Social Settlement continued to help immigrants assimilate through the Depression era. In 1926, two blocks from the settlement home was a cultural center for use by South Omaha’s African Americans. With only three permanent full-time employees, the settlement relied heavily on volunteers. In the 1930s, they had up to 43 volunteers. It was the Settlement’s dream to employ people in the working class who could act as friendly neighbors, to provide educational and recreational opportunities to immigrants of diverse backgrounds, and to encourage positive ethical lifestyles.

Black and white photograph of boys cleaning a playground. RG5337b001f002i0029-0030

In addition to the manuscript collection, a newly digitized photo collection depicts the friendly demeanor of both the employees and the participants. The house continued to offer various recreational, educational, and community improvement clubs for their members, including sewing, cooking, folk dance, wood shop clubs, night school, visiting nurses, nursery school, billiards, plays, musicals, and other community activities.

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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