Some listeners to Cybelle Shattuck’s September 29 sermon might find of interest sources for additional information on Caroline Bartlett Crane’s work in the late 19th century and early 20th century on “municipal housekeeping”. This work by Bartlett Crane continued for many years after she left her ministry at People’s Church in the 1890s. The story of Bartlett Crane’s municipal housekeeping work can help inspire our continued efforts at People’s Church today to live in right relations with the natural world, and to advance the cause of healthier environmental policies.
Great sources for more info on Caroline Bartlett Crane include her various biographies. I have read and can personally recommend the book “A Just Verdict: The Life of Caroline Bartlett Crane” by O’Ryan Rickard, which is available at the People’s Church library, the Kalamazoo Public Library, and at many used bookstores all over the internet. This book covers both the People’s Church years as well as Bartlett Crane’s work in municipal housekeeping.
“Municipal housekeeping” was a movement led by women in the late 19th and early 20th century that tried to take steps to improve water quality, sanitation standards, and food quality in cities and other places in the U.S. This focus made it a type of environmental quality movement focused on how various public services and government regulations could improve public health by improving the quality of the water supply and the food supply.
“Municipal housekeeping” could also be seen as an early feminist movement. Women were able to be active in this movement, despite the prevailing social attitudes of that era, under the argument that “women’s sphere” could be defined broadly to include concerns about public health measures that would affect the health of families and children. So it was a feminist movement, but a circumscribed feminist movement. It was a beginning.
Bartlett Crane developed a national reputation as a consultant to various cities on how to improve their health. She was not just a Kalamazoo civic leader, but a national leader.
More information is available on Bartlett Crane at the history section of our church website, and at the section of our website that provides brief profiles of past ministers. According to UU historical accounts, Bartlett Crane was known as “America’s housekeeper”.
Bartlett Crane’s Wikipedia entry includes the following discussion of Bartlett Crane’s municipal housekeeping work: “Turning to public health and sanitation reform, she successfully campaigned for meat inspection ordinances after discovering unsanitary conditions in local slaughterhouses. She founded the Women’s Civic Improvement League in 1903-4, with a Charity Organizations Board as a referral agency for charity cases. She wrote sanitary surveys for other cities as a professional consultant, and by 1917 had inspected sixty-two cities in fourteen states.”
I heartedly agree with Cybelle Shattuck that Caroline Bartlett Crane’s story can provide inspiration for us at People’s as we figure out how we can best act on our UU principles to advance the cause of a healthier environment.