Social Life and Social Services in Indianapolis Networks During the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

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Katherine Badertscher


In late nineteenth-century Indianapolis, a group of citizens, united by social networks, dominated the governance and management of the city’s social services for several decades. The tight-knit network of men and women worked together at the center of social and philanthropic life. Since its inception in 1879, the charity Organization Society of Indianapolis (cOS) wielded virtual control over social welfare—making it one of the most progressive and powerful philanthropic organizations in the country. An influential coterie of men and women governed, donated to, and volunteered for the cOS and many of its sub-agencies. Then, as now, social networks are as essential for us to understand as social entrepreneurs and charismatic leaders.


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Badertscher, K. (2019). Social Life and Social Services in Indianapolis. Indiana Magazine of History, 113(4), 271 - 308. Retrieved from