TUCKERMAN, JOSEPH (18 January 1778, Boston, MA-20 April 1840,
Havana, Cuba). Education: A.B., Harvard College, 1798; studied theology with
Thomas Thacher, Dedham, MA, 1798-1801. Career: Minister, North Chelsea
(now Revere), MA, 1801-26; minister-at-large, Boston, 1826-36.
Joseph Tuckerman pioneered the innovative ministry-at-large in Boston, an effort to take liberal religion to the new class of urban poor spawned by the rapidly urbanizing society of the early nineteenth century. Of a wealthy background, Tuckerman graduated from Harvard in 1798 and became minister in Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1801, serving well there as a parish minister, but with no particular distinction as an innovator, until 1825. Under the leadership of William Ellery Channing and Henry Ware, Jr. , Unitarians in the early 1820s began to take measures to address the growing problem of poverty in Boston. Tuckerman was called to be the first full-time minister-at-large in Boston and entered upon the difficult task not only of addressing the needs of the poor but of educating the sometimes obtuse Unitarian clergy and laity about the nature of urban poverty. Tuckerman relied heavily upon visitation in this ministry, p1oneering a form of urban social work in America. His efforts not only helped to sensitize Boston liberals to the problems of poverty but made some progress in finding ways to address that question. Moreover, Tuckerman's thinking about social reform laid the groundwork for later social work agencies. He unified Boston efforts in social work by founding the Benevolent Societies of Boston in 1834, a council of social agencies. Tuckerman's work was an important phase in the development of a social consciousness in the liberal religious tradition.
A. Principles and Results of the Ministry-at-Large (Boston, 1838).
B. AAUP, 345-56; DAB 19, 46; DARB, 476-77; Heralds 2, 103-17; Daniel T. McColgan, Joseph Tuckerman: Pioneer hi American Social Work (Washington, DC, 1940); Daniel Walker Howe, The Unitarian Conscience: Harvard Moral Philosophy. 1805-J861 (Cambridge, 1970); David Robinson, "Channing and the Problem of Social Reform," Kairos. 16 (Autumn 1979), p.7.