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Notes from the Archives: Amelia Earhart in Boston

July 24, 2019

On this day, in 1897, Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas. Did you know that Earhart had a Boston connection?

 Amelia Earhart, 7/30/1936, Records of the Army Air Forces, circa 1902 - 1964, Photographs of Flight Personnel, 1911 - 1941, National Archives and Records Administration

Earhart was not only a pilot, but also a social worker.  In 1925, Earhart was hired as a social worker at the Denison House, a settlement house in Boston’s South End.  This photo, taken by Leslie Jones, shows her with children from the settlement house in 1928.

We wondered, what was the Denison House and what happened to it? We did a little digging in our collections and found some records about the house. 

Denison House files, Box 6,  Law Department records, Collection 0700.007, Boston City Archives

Denison House was founded in 1892. It was originally known as the Boston College Settlement, and was supported by women from Boston College. The women named the house for Edward Denison, an Englishman who lived and worked in London’s East End. Denison was a fore-runner of the Settlement Movement. This pamphlet tells us that Denison House operated into the early 1940s. In 1941, the settlement house released the below statement, citing neighborhood depopulation as a reason for closing the house.

Denison House files, Box 6,  Law Department records, Collection 0700.007, Boston City Archives

South End residents who used the settlement house’s services were directed to other local social welfare agencies, including the South End House, the Chinese Mission, and the Salvation Army. You can see a list of the agencies below.

Denison House files, Box 6,  Law Department records, Collection 0700.007, Boston City Archives

You can learn more about the intersection of Amelia Earhart’s careers as a social worker and pilot at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Social Welfare History Project.