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A Public Charity

Religion and Social Welfare in Indianapolis, 1929-2002

Mary L. Mapes

Publication Year: 2004

Using Indianapolis as its focus, this book explores the relationship between religion and social welfare. Arising out of the Indianapolis Polis Center's Lilly-sponsored study of religion and urban culture, the book looks at three issues: the role of religious social services within Indianapolis's larger social welfare support system, both public and private; the evolution of the relationship between public and private welfare sectors; and how ideas about citizenship mediated the delivery of social services. Noting that religious nonprofits do not figure prominently in most studies of welfare, Mapes explores the historical roots of the relationship between religiously affiliated social welfare and public agencies. Her approach recognizes that local variation has been a defining feature of American social welfare. A Public Charity aims to illuminate local trends and to relate the situation in Indianapolis to national trends and events.

Polis Center Series on Religion and Urban Culture -- David J. Bodenhamer and Arthur E. Farnsley II, editors

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Polis Center Series on Religion and Urban Culture


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Table of Contents

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

After completing my Ph.D. in 1998, I was invited to join the Polis Center at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, where the research and writing of this book occurred. The Polis Center gave me time and access to resources. I am truly grateful. The support of the center’s director, David Bodenhamer, was especially important to me as I began my career...

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pp. 1-11

In 1938, a girl pregnant with her first child arrived at Indianapolis’s Suemma Coleman Home for unmarried mothers. When the women running the home learned that the girl was Catholic, they quickly contacted St. Elizabeth’s Home, the city’s Catholic home for unwed mothers. Although the Suemma Coleman Home was not an official Protestant institution, the city’s social workers had long accepted...

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I. Catholic Charities and the Making of the Welfare State

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pp. 12-31

In the spring of 1935, Bishop Joseph E. Ritter invited Weltha Kelley, a social work professor from Saint Louis University, to conduct a formal evaluation of the services offered by Catholic Charities of Indianapolis. After interviewing the men and women who worked for Catholic Charities and visiting other private and public social welfare agencies, she concluded, ‘‘social work in Indianapolis follows sectarian lines.’1 In an interview...

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II. A City of Families: Social Welfare and Postwar Prosperity

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pp. 32-60

In its 1957 Annual Report, the Family Service Association (FSA), Indianapolis’s largest private nonsectarian social welfare agency, highlighted one of the families that the agency’s social workers had served the previous year: a married couple that ‘‘lived in a fashionable neighborhood’’ but ‘‘needed help with understanding and...

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III. Rediscovering Poverty, Redefining Community: Religion, the Civil Rights Movement, and the War on Poverty

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pp. 61-90

In the summer of 1965, the executive committee of Community Action Against Poverty (CAAP) decided to establish Indianapolis’s first federally funded neighborhood center (called community action agencies in most cities) at St. Rita’s Catholic Church, an African American church located in Martindale, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. In the days that followed...

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IV. ‘‘Beyond Religious Boundaries’’: Urban Ministry and Social Order

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pp. 91-118

Reflecting on the rise of urban ministries in Indianapolis during the 1960s and early 1970s, a reporter for the Indianapolis News observed, ‘‘There was a time when a church’s charity work was done across town, in a place few of the congregations ever saw. Those...

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V. ‘‘One Soul at a Time’’: Welfare Reform and Faith-Based Organizations

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pp. 119-148

When Stephen Goldsmith became the mayor of Indianapolis in 1992, he promised to increase the role of the private sector in providing city services and thus to ‘‘reinvent government.’’ Motivated by the belief that ‘‘public resources foster local solutions best when the programs use market mechanisms,’’ Goldsmith, during his eight years in office, increased...


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pp. 149-168


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pp. 169-173

E-ISBN-13: 9780253110978
E-ISBN-10: 0253110971
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253344809

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 1 index
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Polis Center Series on Religion and Urban Culture
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OCLC Number: 232157305
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Public Charity