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Historical Documents
Beneficial and Charitable Societies

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Beneficial and Charitable Societies

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This list, recorded sometime between 1836 and 1838, describes male and female Beneficial and Charitable Societies founded by Philadelphia blacks and displays their membership numbers, annual income, and annual expenditures.

By 1837, there were nearly one hundred societies operating in the city and its suburbs, claiming a membership of 9,298. More than half of these were organized between 1831 and 1837, in reaction to growing antipathy toward the poor on the part of white Philadelphians. Sixty-two of them were women's societies.

The female Dorcas Society, for example distributed "garments and relief" and "articles of clothing" to the "sick and infirm."
Image Credit: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

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Related Entries:
Beneficial Societies
Appendix to Memorial to Pennsylvania Legislature

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