Settlement House Girl: Growing Up in the 1950s at North East Neighborhood House, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Caroline Scheaffer Arnold

Publisher: Caroline Arnold Pages: 220 Price: (paperback) $14.99 ISBN: 9798864903285 Reviewed: April, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

From 1948 to 1966, Caroline Scheaffer Arnold’s father served as director of the North East Neighborhood House (NENH), a settlement house offering a social center for students and the surrounding community. Here, Arnold recalls those years, encompassing the students, employees, and her friends, while also exploring NENH’s impact on her adult life.

Arnold’s family lived in an apartment on the top floor of the NENH bordered by a long hallway. Across the hall was a kitchen, a community dining room where all residents and staff ate family-style, and a resident living room. The lower floors housed dormitories for staff and other occupants (typically students from the nearby university), an auditorium, gym, and offices. NENH also served as a community hotspot hosting sports, clubs, and social resources.

Pulled from her remarkable memory but supplemented by research, the book captures the unique settlement house lifestyle. Arnold recounts, with a dramatized but endearing voice, moments of heartwarming tenderness: a wedding where everyone chipped in, collecting popsicle wrappers to earn gifts for loved ones; her father’s attempt to invest in stamps, only to wind up gifting her pages of below-value stamps and a note “hope your envelopes are large enough,” and summers spent at NENH’s project Camp Bovey.

The book is episodic with each section acting almost like a short story, anchored by a clear emotional core. One of the more touching recollections is when Arnold returns home as an adult after her father’s passing to discover letters and memos showcasing the joy he had running NENH and founding Camp Bovey, which became a beloved institution. The book captures life in colorful anecdotes, and Arnold draws the intriguing settlement house residents with a loving hand.

Part memoir and part time capsule, the author’s recollections are supplemented by photographs, letters, journal entries, and newspaper clippings. Endnotes provide even more personal insight, all resulting in an enjoyable encapsulation of one family’s experiences as the settlement facility transitioned into modernity.

Highly recommended for fans of Jennifer Worth’s Call the Midwife trilogy.

Author's Current Residence
Los Angeles, California
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