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The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake is infamous for decimating the city and leaving a quarter of a million people homeless. Afterwards, the American Red Cross redefined "relief" in its efforts to help San Francisco's refugees, and it tested its progressive new relief methods within the refugee camps. Previously, the charity organization advocated personal involvement and more evaluation of disaster victims; relief was viewed as feminine and subjective. After the earthquake, officials sought to make relief more efficient, masculine, and objective through favoring victims who were already self-supporting. Refugees who contested progressive views were derided as socialists. Ultimately, conflicting definitions of relief in the refugee camps shaped the way relief was practiced in the United States.


This research was presented at the Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research at Whittier College in the fall of 2013, and an abridged version of the paper was presented at the Phi Alpha Theta Southern California Regional Conference in April 2014, where it won "Best Undergraduate Research Paper" for the United States History division. This paper also won first prize in the 2014 Kevin and Tam Ross Undergraduate Research Prize contest at the Leatherby Libraries, Chapman University.