120 Years: Celebrating the Margaret Fuller House, Settlement Houses, and My Family's Immigrant Roots
Updated: Oct 26
120 Years : Celebrating the Margaret Fuller House, Settlement Houses, and My Family's Immigrant Roots in Cambridge, MA
By : George (Chip) Greenidge, Jr.
I am so proud to be on the honorary committee of the Margaret Fuller House 120th anniversary celebration. Built in 1807 as the childhood home of Sarah Margaret Fuller, a noted author, feminist, and Transcendentalist, our house on Cherry Street was reinvented in 1902 as one of the first Settlement Houses in the United States. It was the height of the industrial revolution in Cambridge at the time. Recent immigrants primarily staffed factories, and their living conditions in boarding and tenement houses were dire. Following the spirit of the Settlement House movement, Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House (MFNH) was designed as an outpost of education and culture for these workers and to ease class tensions.
Young women working 12-hour days came to the house for lunch. Volunteers and staff held meetings and socials; supplied women's food and clothing; organized day and rest trips for mothers; and helped women find employment. Some of Cambridge's first ESL classes took place at the MFNH, and the city's first "Baby Clinic" began there.
In the 1930s, boys learned woodworking at the MFNH, while mothers and young girls practiced sewing and cooking. There were drama classes and community productions. In the '40s, the house hosted a boxing ring, and in the '50s and '60s, teens from all over Cambridge came to Friday evening sock hops. In the early '70s, the Black Panthers had a radio station on the third floor and sponsored Saturday morning father and son breakfasts in the basement.
The Margaret Fuller House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1984. Throughout its history, it has always maintained the primary goals of a Settlement House: "To provide focus, education, recreation, and orientation for its surrounding community; to be the socializing vehicle whereby the middle class and working class could meet…"
My great grandfather George R. Margetson from Saint Kitts, my grandmother from Cambridge Norma (Margetson) Greenidge, my dad George R. Greenidge, Sr., and I ( Chip Greenidge ) were all part of Margaret Fuller House programs growing up. As you know, the settlement house movement helped many immigrants receive essential services of food, healthcare, educational support, and shelter when other places would not welcome them in the early 1900s. My grandmother, Norma, was the first black employee of the Margaret Fuller House in the 1950s.
And glad to celebrate this year at the 120th year of its founding, Tim Rowe, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Gilda Nogueira as recipients of MFH Awards.
Check out my recent CBS article and CBS video of myself and my dad visiting Margaret Fuller House in our old Cambridge neighborhood https://www.cbsnews.com/boston/news/margaret-fuller-neighborhood-house-selvin-chambers-george-greenwich/ Here is the video:
To learn about the Margaret Fuller House in Cambridge - please go here: https://margaretfullerhouse.org
Also check out my blog post on my family's history in Cambridge and the Boston area: https://www.georgegreenidge.com/post/black-dreams-matter-my-family-s-legacy-with-racism
Greenidge & Margetson ( My Family's History at Margaret Fuller House in Cambridge, MA )
Check out me at 4 years old!