Robert Archey Woods

Robert A. Woods

Robert Archey Woods (1865-1925) was the son of Scottish-Irish immigrants who settled in Pittsburg. He appears to have had a strongly Calvinist upbringing. His father, a successful, small businessman was an active figure in the local Presbyterian church, but died when Robert was 15. Encouraged by his mother (Catherine Hall Woods) to go to College his higher education career began at Amherst College. While his academic studies may have left something to be desired he gained much from the discussions and debates that were part of the College life (Woods 1929). Attracted by the growing reputation of Andover Theological Seminary as a centre of exploration of the social gospel ('connecting theology with life') Robert A. Woods was not seeking ordination. He soon fell under the influence of William Jowett Tucker, whose approach to social economics was deeply critical of charity organization and traditional philanthropy. Instead he looked 'bolder social change' to bring about 'economic justice'. Woods was beginning to search for a philosophy that could combine both social and individual salvation (see Carson 1990: 14 and 29). Robert Woods became a key figure in the introduction and development of university and social settlements in the United States. Founder and Head of South End House (1895-1925) and Secretary of the National Federation of Settlements from 1911 to just before his death he was both an important animator and organizer, and exponent of settlement work. Many of his important papers were published in 1923 as The Neighborhood in Nation Building. Other important works include English Social Movements (1891) and Handbook of Settlements (1911) and The Settlement Horizon (1922) (the last two were written with Albert J. Kennedy).

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