Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Judith Zeitlin

Second Advisor

Stephen Mrozowski

Third Advisor

Roberta Wollons


Established in 1892, Denison House Settlement in Boston, Massachusetts was the third college settlement of its kind in the United States. Like other settlement houses of the time, Denison House was established as a base for community refurbishment and statistical study. Located at 93 Tyler Street in the rundown South Cove area of Boston, it offered its lower class "neighbors" a variety of activities and facilities within its perimeters. Judging only from late nineteenth-century attitudes and mores, one would assume that the women who worked and lived at Denison House would have been turned away by the poor residents of this area and shunned by their fellow middle and upper middle-class citizens. This paper explores how the settlement workers, mostly middle to upper-middle class, college-educated women, fashioned a space to help their lower class "neighbors" and, at the same time, maintained connections with their middle- and upper-class peers and benefactors. In particular, it focuses on the women's use of the space they acquired, domestic versus public spaces, as well as how they chose to decorate their space, in an attempt to place the settlement within its late nineteenth-century historical context. With this thesis, I hope to answer Suzanne Spencer-Woods' call for more archaeological research on domestic reform. We must come to understand how women actively shaped material culture. In this analysis, I hope to show how the Denison House residents were active participants in creating a space that allowed them to transcend gender roles and class ideologies.