Their Benevolent Design

Their Benevolent Design

Janice Harvey (CA)

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Throughout the nineteenth century poor relief in Quebec was private and sectarian. In Montreal bourgeois Protestant women responded by establishing institutional charities for destitute women and children.

Their Benevolent Design delves into the inner workings of two of these charities (the Protestant Orphan Asylum and the Montreal Ladies’ Benevolent Society), sheds light on little-known aspects of the community’s response to social inequality, and examines the impact of liberalism on changing attitudes to poverty and charity. Seeing charity as a class duty, elite women structured their benevolent design around the protection, religious salvation, and social regulation of poor children. Janice Harvey explores how these philanthropists overcame the constraints of social conventions for women in polite society, how charity directors devised and implemented institutional aid, and how that aid was used by families and experienced by children. Following the development of the charities through the end of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth, the book explores the conflict that arose between these institutions and other social services, including those that advocated for foster care and so-called scientific charity. The 1920s marked a major social shift in how child poverty was understood and managed in Protestant Montreal.

Despite the gendered obstacles facing women in charity organization, Their Benevolent Design celebrates the remarkable ingenuity and independence of a group of Canadian women in shaping social aid and improving the grim realities of child poverty.

Product details

ISBN-13: 9780228020561

Number of pages: 420

Format: Paperback / softback Trade paperback (US)

Imprint: McGill-Queen's University Press

English en