I-"Studies in the Slums" - Helen Campbell - Lippincott's

I-"Studies in the Slums" - Helen Campbell - Lippincott's

"Water Street and Its Work"

by: Helen Campbell | publication date: May 1, 1880 | Publication: Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science | pages: 568-573

We may regard it is a temporary stage of development - a stage resulting from the inevitable doubt underlying thought and action in this mysterious nineteenth century, and which for a time holds with so firm and benumbing a grasp that escape seems neither possible nor desirable. The narrow minds settles easily and contentedly into the belief that everything is as bad as it can be, and that the majority fail to accept or recognize such fact gives us the sense of unique possession, filling the pessimistic sod with a satisfaction only less intense than that of his optimistic brother.

In this first installment of her "Studies in the Slums" series, Campbell engages in a type of Socratic dialogue with an upper-class New Yorker she calls Criticus about whether or not reform is possible in New York's poorest tenements. While he believes it is impossible, Campbell tries to prove him wrong by showing him examples of reformed, upstanding residents who lead "good" lives, despite their poor living conditions. Campbell's articles published in Lippincott's Magazine, along with those from Sunday Afternoon, were reprinted in a book titled "The Problem of the Poor" (1888). This series, along with Campbell's writings for the magazine Sunday Afternoon, are collected in her book titled "The Problem of the Poor."

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