(Oct. 1, 1887-June 19, 1971). Mary Rigg was born on a farm in Grinnell, Kansas. She and her family moved to Indiana during her youth. She graduated from Rockville High School and then received her bachelor’s degree in education from Indiana University in 1915. She taught high school home economics in Florida, then studied social work at Columbia University in New York City. During World War I, Rigg conducted social surveys for the Women’s Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Rigg moved back to Indianapolis in 1919 and worked for the Church Federation. She earned her master’s degree at the Indiana University School of Social Work. Her thesis, “A survey of the foreigners in the American settlement district of Indianapolis” (1925) led her to become director of the American Settlement (now Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center) in 1924.

She transformed the struggling settlement house into a thriving community center for Eastern European immigrant families. She implemented her social work training, including surveys, data compilation, and interpretation, to formulate programming. Rigg introduced English, citizenship, and nutrition classes, children’s clubs, skilled training for boys, and holiday programs.

The settlement house moved in 1940 to a modern facility and became the Southwest Social Center. Rigg continued the full range of community services and added a 45-acre farm and coop. She retired in 1960 and volunteered at the center for the rest of her life. Rigg also belonged to Altrusa Club, National Association of Social Workers, and the Indiana University Women’s Club. The center was renamed Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center shortly after her death

Revised April 2021

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