Skip to main content

Helen Hall papers

Identifier: SW 34

Scope and Content of the Collection

The collection comprises personal and professional papers of Helen Hall reflecting her career as a leader in the settlement house movement, particularly during the period, 1933-67, that she served as head resident of Henry Street Settlement on Manhattan's Lower East Side. They reflect Hall's intimate knowledge of and commitment to that neighborhood, as well as her involvement in a wide range of other activities: service with the Red Cross in France during World War I and in Australia and the South Pacific in World War II; leadership in the American and international settlement movements; membership on the advisory council of the Committee on Economic Security that drafted the original social security legislation; participation in the consumer movement; and outspoken advocacy of such public policy issues as unemployment, health care, public housing, and support for the United Nations. Papers relating to her settlement career reflect her involvement in the National Federation of Settlements and the United Neighborhood Houses of New York City. Included is correspondence with settlement leaders such as Charles Cooper, Helen Harris, Albert Kennedy, Lillie Peck, Graham Taylor, Lea Taylor, Ralph and Ruth Tefferteller, and Lillian Wald; and settlement supporters such as Jacob Billikopf, Clinch Calkins, and Winslow Carlton. (The University Settlement [Philadelphia] records and Henry Street Settlement records, held by Temple University's Urban Archives and the Social Welfare History Archives, respectively, provide much fuller documentation of her responsibilities and activities at those institutions than does this collection.)

The papers also contain evidence of her involvement with social workers beyond the settlement field, particularly with the National (earlier, "American") Association of Social Workers and the National Conference of Social Work and individuals such as Leon and Mary Keyserling, Mary Van Kleeck, Bruno Lasker, and Karl de Schweinitz. Hall's involvement in public affairs is evident in correspondence with Persia Campbell, Paul Douglas, Fiorello La Guardia, Herbert Lehman, Francis Perkins, Gifford Pinchot, Robert Wagner and files of her involvement with the President's Committee on Economic Security, New York Housing Authority, and the New York Attorney General's Advisory Committee to the Division of Consumer Frauds and Protection. The Professional Activities series also documents her involvement with various consumer groups, her initiative in the establishment of Mobilization for Youth to combat juvenile delinquency, her leadership for improved medical care on the Lower East Side, and her work to interpret the work of the United Nations. The Speeches and Writings series includes working files of survey research projects that Hall directed, most notably studies of unemployment conditions, 1928-35, and later consumer studies of low-income families.

Papers related to Hall's personal life, which was often intricately interwoven with her professional and civic concerns, include correspondence with family (particularly her husband, Paul U. Kellogg) and friends, appointment calendars, financial records, legal documents, photographs, awards and honorary degrees, newspaper clippings, and general biographical information.


  • 1898-1982

Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Open for use in Social Welfare History Archives reading room.


Any copyright that Helen Hall held to the contents of the collection has been retained by her estate. Permission to quote must be obtained from the executor of the estate. Contact the Social Welfare History Archives for further information.

Biographical Information

Helen Hall, settlement worker and social reformer, was born 5 January 1892 in Kansas City, Missouri. Her family later moved to Chester, New York, where her father established, ca. 1911, a surgical instruments manufacturing plant, Wilford Hall Laboratories. Hall studied art and social work at Columbia University and the New York School for Social Work, 1912-1915. In 1947, Bates College awarded her an honorary doctor of laws degree; in 1969, Smith College conferred on her an honorary doctor of humane letters degree; and in June 1972, she received an honorary degree from Columbia University.

She married Paul Underwood Kellogg, editor of the Survey, in February 1935. He died in 1958.

In 1916, after her coursework at the New York School for Social Work, Hall organized Neighborhood House in Eastchester, New York, and also worked with the Westchester County Department of Child Welfare. During World War I, she directed Red Cross work for American Expeditionary Force base hospitals in France. She organized a girl's club for the YWCA in Alsace after the Armistice. From 1920-1922 Hall worked for the United States War Department in China and the Philippines supervising women's relations and organizing recreational services for enlisted men.

After her tour of duty in Asia, Hall directed University Settlement in Philadelphia from 1922 to 1933. In 1928, Albert J. Kennedy appointed her chairman of the Unemployment Committee of the National Federation of Settlements. The Committee conducted a number of nationwide surveys of urban unemployment, 1928-1932, and published Some Folks Won't Work (1930) and Case Studies of Unemployment (1931). Additionally, Hall wrote several articles on unemployment, testified before legislative bodies in support of unemployment insurance and relief, delivered speeches about unemployment conditions, and served as an advisor on unemployment for Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot. In the early 1930s, Hall visited England and made comparative studies of unemployment conditions and methods of relief.

The board of directors of Henry Street Settlement in 1933 asked Hall to succeed Lillian Wald as headworker of the New York City settlement, a position Hall held until her retirement at age 75 in 1967. Like Wald, Hall was committed to social action and social justice, and she emphasized the importance of changing public policy to promote urban planning and services.

In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt named her a member of the advisory council to the Committee on Economic Security, which drafted social security legislation. She was president of the National Federation of Settlements from 1934-1940. As a member of a special commission of the Foreign Policy Association in 1934, Hall studied the social and economic conditions in Cuba.

During World War II, 1942-1943, Hall took a leave of absence from Henry Street Settlement to rejoin the American Red Cross. She organized service clubs and rest homes for the Red Cross in Australia and the South Pacific.

Throughout her career, Hall was involved with consumer affairs. In 1934-1935, she served as consumer representative of the New York State Milk Advisory Committee. She helped organize and served as chairman of the Consumers' National Federation, 1936-1941. Later, she was named vice-chairman of a consumer advisory committee to the Office of Price Administration. In 1952, Hall became a board member and advisor for Consumers' Union. Her work at Henry Street Settlement led to a joint settlement study of purchasing and credit practices of low-income families; the project resulted in a book, The Poor Pay More , published in 1963.

In the decades following World War II, Hall initiated many community programs to combat juvenile crime. In 1955, she helped found the Lower Eastside Neighborhood Association; and in 1957, she assisted in organizing Mobilization for Youth. Additionally, Hall fought for improved medical care on the Lower East Side and sought to interpret the work of the United Nations to her neighbors.

Helen Hall's autobiography, Unfinished Business , was published in 1971. Hall died on August 31 1982, at age 90.


46 Linear Feet


Helen Hall was a settlement worker and social reformer. These personal and professional papers reflect her career as a leader in the settlement house movement, particularly during the period 1933-67, including her involvement in the National Federation of Settlements – particularly with its studies of unemployment during the late 1920s and early 1930s – and the United Neighborhood Houses of New York City. The papers also document her involvement with various consumer groups, her initiative in the establishment of Mobilization for Youth to combat juvenile delinquency, her leadership for improved medical care on the Lower East Side, her work to interpret the work of the United Nations, and her outspoken advocacy of such public policy issues as unemployment, poverty, and public housing.


The collection is divided into five series.

  1. Series 1. General Biographical (Boxes 1-3)
  2. Series 2. Personal Correspondence (Boxes 3-25)
  3. Series 3. Finances and properties (Boxes 26-33)
  4. Series 4. Speeches and writings (Boxes 34-48)
  5. Series 5. Professional activities (Boxes 49-106)

Other Finding Aid

Unpublished inventory available. Please contact Archives for more information.

Microfilm Edition

The microfilm edition of the Helen Hall papers was prepared with financial support form the National Endowment for the Humanities as a part of the Research Libraries Group's Archival Preservation Microfilm Project. Filming was done by NCR Information Imaging, Inc., Dayton, Ohio, in 1993. Approximately 70 percent of the original documents are included in the microfilm edition. Personal financial materials and most files from the period after Helen Hall's 1967 retirement are excluded. Mark Hammonds, Natasha Vaubel, and Karen Strauss prepared the collection for microfilming, and David Klaassen edited the guide to the microfilm edition.

Processing Information

The Helen Hall papers arrived at the archives in a disorganized state. The archivist imposed an order on the collection emphasizing Hall's writings and speeches, her numerous public commitments, and her relationships with her family and friends.

Helen Hall papers
Susan Steinwall
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Social Welfare History Archives Collecting Area