History in the Making

Document Type



Mary Julia Workman (1871–1964) was a Catholic social activist in the early twentieth century. She was the founder of the Brownson Settlement House in Los Angeles established in 1902. By the twentieth century, during the Progressive Era (1896–1916), Workman led a group of volunteer women to help immigrants, the majority being Mexicans, who were segregated and discriminated against in the growing city of Los Angeles, California. Although Catholic activism was influenced by the Protestant Progressive ideology, Workman provided social justice to the marginalized communities with education, health, and job training. In a time when Americanization efforts imposed by conservative and nationalist religious groups on immigrants brought antagonism, racism, and discrimination to the diverse communities of Los Angeles, Mary Julia Workman and her Americanization methodology focused on learning from a foreign culture and adapting it to American society rather than removing cultural identity and heritage. After years of service, Workman left her position as the president of the Brownson House due to the religious bureaucracy at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles but never stopped fighting for social justice. Mary Julia spent her whole life devoted to learning, understanding, and fighting for marginalized and discriminated individuals. Her contributions may have been forgotten, but her devotion will live on.