Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs
Manuscript Group 9, Newark Female Charitable Society, Newark, New Jersey
Records, 1803-1838, 1867-1949, 3.1 linear feet
Call Number: MG 9 + box & folder number
Constitution, minutes, financial records, and some correspondence of a Newark charitable organization founded in 1803. Includes records of various committees, and of The Crazy Jane Society, an auxiliary founded in 1874. A substantial proportion of later records are in the Newark Female Charitable Society's Annual Reports (Newark, NJ, 1868-1915).
For a casebook kept by Hannah Burnet Kinney (1761-1832) as an officer and social worker for the Society, see Manuscript Group 785. Included are letters of:
The records of the Newark Female Charitable Society span the years 1803-1838 and 1868-1949 and total 3.1 linear feet.
In January, 1803, a group of philanthropic women gathered at Judge Elisha Boudinot and Mrs. Boudinot’s home to create the “Female Society for the Relief of Poor and Distressed Persons, in the Village of Newark” (later known as the Newark Female Charitable Society, NFCS). Under the leadership of Mrs. Boudinot, 117 women set forth with two goals: “to relieve immediate suffering,” and to find employment for the idle. The Society was successful and grew quickly in the nineteenth century, especially between 1880 and 1890. From 1890 until World War I, the Society’s organization remained much the same; growth during this period was mostly financial to meet the needs of the growing population. After World War I, the Society discontinued some of its services that were being duplicated by organizations in the public sector.
The original constitution of the NFCS provided for four officers and six managers. Newark was divided into six districts, with one manager assigned to each. The managers visited with, interviewed, and determined the needs and eligibility of prospective welfare recipients. Furthermore, the managers exerted “themselves to create and maintain habits of industry among their applicants, by furnishing them, as far as possible, with employment.” The women met twice a year, in May and November, in members’ homes. The Society was originally funded solely through donations. Each of the subscribers paid annual dues of one dollar; non-subscribing residents made contributions as well.
Inspired by both humanitarianism and religion, the Society shared a close relationship with the religious community of Newark. After the business of the meeting, the women would close by singing their favorite hymn.
The Society was linked to the religious community financially as well as spiritually. When funds were low, the women enlisted the support of one of the area ministers to give a sermon. The sermons emphasized the needs of less privileged children, and the Female Society’s role in aiding them. In 1833, a single sermon by Rev. Henderson of the Episcopal Church brought in $90.79 for the Society.
By 1815, the NFCS was growing rapidly. In 1835, two more managers were added to help with their ever-growing relief program. In 1840, 270 families were assisted with funds of $940.50. This record earned the Society a reputation as capable dispensers of funds to the needy. They were so highly regarded for this service that when the mayor called a public meeting in 1868 to raise $5,000 for relief, the first $1,000 was given to the Female Society to distribute. At this point, the Society also broadened its functions from dispensing relief and encouraging employment to supplying employment for the needy. They purchased raw flax to give poor women jobs as spinners and seamstresses.
In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Society’s functions and organization changed and grew considerably. At a special meeting in October, 1878, the women resolved that the Society needed a central depot where all applications for relief could be made. This office would be open three days per week with “a superintendent and visitor, to be present at all times when open, to receive application, visit new cases, and establish a register to prevent imposture.” In November, 1878 the women rented an office at 84 Park Place for $20 a month. In addition to serving as an application center, the meetings, which had previously been held at private homes, were held there. Moreover, not only money was distributed from the Park Place office, but also bread, flour, hominy, tea, coffee, sugar, soap, and coal. Clothing was also supplied by the Crazy Jane Society.
Although it began independently of the Newark Female Charitable Society, the Crazy Jane Society was the first of the NFCS’s many auxiliaries and subdivisions. The earliest record of their gathering is in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, under the direction of Mrs. William Pennington. A sewing circle of well-off women met in the afternoon, at a different home each week. In the late afternoon, when the women had completed their charitable sewing for the needy, tea was served and gentlemen came in to pass a sociable evening. But the Society was short lived. When it was revived for the first time, the social functions were distinctly more important than the sewing. There were men as well as women subscribers to help raise money, and they sponsored socials at night. This group was also short lived.
The Crazy Jane Society was revived for a second and successful time in 1874 as an auxiliary to the NFCS. Meeting in the mornings under the direction of Mrs. Edward Pennington, the Crazy Jane women cut and sewed garments for the poor. The Society was very successful and grew rapidly. In 1878, a children’s nursery was added. By 1880, the Society started giving out work and payment to needy women. The women were originally paid with personal money from the Crazy Jane Society, not from the Female Society. By 1883, 65 needy women were supplied with sewing work, receiving payment in both money and groceries. Also in this year, a kindergarten was established, and in 1887 a cradle room was added. The Society was incorporated in 1901. By 1902, 99 women were on the roll. The Crazy Jane Society continued serving the community, under the direction of the NFCS until 1917, when the two groups merged.
Between 1880 and 1890, the NFCS formed many specialized subgroups. The Kitchen Garden Committee, created in December, 1880 trained young girls from poor families in domestic skills, using toys for instruction in household work. After 1897, girls who had graduated from the Kitchen Garden Class were promoted to the newly-formed Cooking School. All the materials and equipment were donated by Robert F. Ballantine, who was also on the Board of Advisors. Young girls could also attend classes in patchwork sponsored by the Sewing School Committee. Established in 1883, the Sewing School met every Saturday morning for 37 years.
In October, 1882 the Female Society created a Boys’ Room. The room, principally for evening use, was outfitted with books, periodicals, checkers and other activities. Furnished and entirely paid for by Mrs. Fayette Smith, she hoped to win “many a bright boy from the temptations of a street life and of evil companions.” Unlike most of the undertakings of these women, the boy’s club was not immediately successful. The women complained that it hardly seemed worthwhile to spend so much “time and strength for these boys, who seem, many of them, to have reached the point of total depravity.” Finally, in 1884, the women reported an improvement in the cleanliness and behavior of the boys.
The Laundry Committee was also established in 1882. Located at 72 Clinton Street, the Laundry Committee supplied employment for widowed women and needy mothers. Two rooms were used, one for the laundry, and one as a nursery for children. Between 1882 and 1884, the Laundry Committee was not self-supporting, but was very beneficial to the community; by 1885 it had become financially successful as well. By 1888, 69 women were employed, receiving wages totaling $2,382.83. Receipts for that year were $3,019.39. Although the Laundry Committee was successful for the Society, one woman noted a problem with patrons: “One great disadvantage… the apparent forgetfulness of some that the Laundry is primarily a training school for those who wish to become self-supporting, and not a first-class Laundry, with experienced sponsors.” Nevertheless, the women prided themselves on their good work and success.
The Mother’s Meeting Committee was established in 1882 as well. The Mother’s Meeting group served underprivileged women in two ways. First, it allowed women to augment their income. The women met on Fridays in the late afternoon after work. They were paid 10 cents per hour to sew, and also kept the clothes they made. Second, the Mother’s Meeting group also served a religious function for the women. There were Bible readings while they sewed, and singing afterward. The creators of the club hoped to “impart to them some knowledge of Divine truth.” Like most of the NFCS’s endeavors, the Mother’s Meeting Committee was popular; in 1886 there were 87 names on the roll, and by 1897, 158 women were active members.
The creators of the Fresh Air Fund Committee, begun in 1882, hoped to give children, the elderly, and the disabled temporary relief from city life during the summer. To this end, the Fresh Air Fund contacted people with homes in the country and asked them to donate their home and family to a needy person for a few weeks. In 1882, the Committee sent 47 needy people to live with families in the country; 315 people were sent the following year. By 1888, the Fresh Air Fund was so successful that they rented a farm in New Providence, situated on 16 acres. The Home of Rest was staffed and organized by a group of women known as the Summit Society. Although they began as an auxiliary of the NFCS, the Summit Society later became independent. The first year at new Providence was very successful; 110 people spent time there in 1888. Moreover, in 1888, 127 people were sent to country homes for two or more weeks, and 200 women and children were sent to Coney Island for the day. By 1901, the Fresh Air Fund helped 700 women and children enjoy at least one week in the country during the summer.
The Fresh Air Fund continued to send children to the country and board them with families until 1920. At that time, the women felt the children needed more supervision and moral training than they were receiving at some homes. In 1922, the women purchased a large home in Summit situated on 3.5 acres of land, for $30,000. The home was divided to separate the boys and girls. Camp Eastwood served 50 boys and Sunnyside accommodated 80 girls. The Summit House served 500-700 children annually.
The Relief Committee, also formed in 1882, was organized to dispense relief in the form of food, supplies, coal and clothing. By 1890, the Committee independently aided 129 needy people, without the help of other committees. The Relief Committee also supplied work to help the unemployed. By 1901, 200 people were receiving “industrial aid through laundry, sewing or housework, and gratuitous aid.” The Ordered Work Committee was formed in 1885 with the sole purpose of supplying women with sewing work. Women were employed out of their homes to sew clothing for hospital patients. The Ordered Work Committee continued successfully for 18 years until 1902 when its manager, Mrs. Caleb Neagles, died. The Committee dissolved and its functions were transferred to the Crazy Jane Society.
During this period of expansion, the Dinner or Mid-Day Meal Committee was founded. These women supplied hot meals to the women in the laundry, and to other women in the building, “greatly adding to their physical comfort, making work seem lighter, and a more cheerful aspect given to life.”
Among other committees formed during this period was the committee to publish “The Review.” Published once, in December, 1885, “The Review” was started to gain interest in the Building Fund; the net profit to aid the Fund was $536. The Building Committee, formed in January, 1886, directed the construction of the NFCS building on the corner lot of Halsey and Hill Streets. With the help of a male advisory board, the NFCS moved into a new building on January 2, 1887. The building was principally financed through contributions. Members of the Advisory Board, originally formed in 1882, were Beach Vanderpool, Robert F. Ballantine, and John W. Taylor. Frederick Frelinghuysen later joined the Board and gave his “unlimited assistance and legal advice” and made “wise investments of the Society’s funds.”
Until World War I, the Society’s committees and functions grew in size to meet the needs of Newark’s growing population of poor. During World War I, free rooms in the NFCS building were made available for the war effort. Rooms were used for the Mayor’s Committees on National Defense and on the Conservation of Food Products, the American Red Cross, making bandages, and canning foods.
In 1920, the NFCS and its auxiliaries began to reorganize. The Cooking Class, the Kitchen Garden School, and the Sewing School were discontinued, as their functions were being duplicated in the public schools. The Boy’s Room also closed in 1920 as other boys’ clubs opened. During the post-war depression, the second building at Hill Street was sold for $16,000, and the nursery moved back to the main building. In 1922, the laundry also closed.
While some groups discontinued their services, others found a new focus. In 1932, the Relief Department began to work in conjunction with the State-run Old Age Assistance Society, to help those 65 years and older. Most committees dissolved after the war however. In 1937, the Grocery Department of the Relief work discontinued because the Newark City Welfare Department was dispensing food.
The Newark Female Charitable Society served its community well, particularly between 1880 and World War I. It was most successful in fulfilling the needs of Newark’s poor prior to the organized efforts of the government. After the War, state and city agencies, including the public schools, began to duplicate the functions of the NFCS and the Society discontinued many of its services.
The records, 1803-1838, 1867-1949, of the Newark Female Charitable Society (Newark, N.J.) include the Society’s organizational records as well as reports from some of the auxiliary groups. Documents include minutes, financial records, a casebook, scrapbooks, work order books and correspondence. The minutes, 1803-1938, are the primary source of documentation, providing the first constitution, resolutions, summaries of monthly meetings, donations and subscribers, managers’ names and their monthly reports, annual reports, the number of people aided and the type of aid rendered. Minutes also include reports from committees, including the Fresh Air Fund, the Mother’s Meetings, the Kindergarten and the Sewing School. The records do not include minutes from 1822-1867. However, other document types record the span of the Society, except during the years 1839-1866.
Of particular interest to the collection is a casebook, 1895-1920, that describes the conditions of the those receiving aid and support from the Society, with names, addresses, and the type of aid dispensed. Of note as well are three separate volumes that also record aspects of daily routines and the kinds of work the Society sponsored: a work room order book, 1929-1938, of inventory lists, costs and quantities of purchased fabrics and supplies, and types of clothing sewn; an American Red Cross work room record book, of women’s names, number of days employed, their salaries and the kinds of work produced; and a May, 1941 report of the Welfare and Relief Department, describing the role of the Society in the war effort.
The records are organized in five series: Minutes, Financial Records, the Crazy Jane Society, the Mother’s Meetings Committee, and Miscellaneous Records. The financial records of the Society include the names and addresses of donors, revenue received and housekeeping expenditures; there are no financial records from 1838 to 1874.
The collection includes scrapbooks compiled in 1903-1904 with newspaper clippings and correspondence concerning the Society’s history on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. A scrapbook also contains newspaper clippings, publicity material and correspondence on the Fresh Air Fund activities. Subject areas documented in this collection include the social reform movement, women in charitable and social work, and services for the urban poor.
Series I: MINUTES, 1803-1822, 1867-1937 with gaps. Arranged chronologically.
Minutes contain: the constitution, 1803; summaries of near monthly meetings, 1803-1822, and of monthly meetings from 1867 on; names of managers present at meetings, resolutions, donations and subscribers, 1803-1898; annual reports, miscellaneous printed materials, newspaper clippings, summaries of special meetings, 1867-1898; monthly reports per manager, number of people aided, type and quantity of aid given, donations and subscriptions collected, 1867-1988. Also, minutes include summaries of activities of the following committees: finance, auditing, printing, relief, fresh air fund, house, laundry, mother’s meetings, kindergarten, kitchen garden, sewing school, boy’s room, building and dinner, 1880-1937.
Series II: FINANCIAL RECORDS, 1817-1838, 1874-1937 with gaps. Arranged chronologically.
Records contain: monthly donations, 1817-1838; donations with subscriber’s name, address, date, and amount, 1874-1878, 1898-1914; revenue from donations, fines, and sale of clothing, and expenditures, 1880-1888, 1894-1908, 1915-1921; housekeeping expenditures, 1917-1922, 1924-1934; and miscellaneous records, letters and receipts, 1874-1937.
Series III: THE CRAZY JANE SOCIETY, 1875-1916. Arranged chronologically.
Records include: the roll books and minutes, 1875-1886, 1900-1916; reports of the Purchasing Committee and ordering records, 1875; records of the Cutting Committee, 1890-1924; records of individual members (an oversize volume), 1875-1879; and miscellaneous printed materials.
The records contain: summaries of meetings, resolutions, amendments to the constitution, number of members present, names of directors, reports of annual meetings, number of garments sewn, revenue received, committees appointed, name and attendance records, number of garments sewn by each member, 1875-1879, quantity and cost of materials purchased, 1875, subscription application forms, and a poem “To Crazy Jane.”
Series IV: MOTHER’S MEETINGS COMMITTEE, 1886-1914. Arranged chronologically.
Records include: minutes, 1886-1913; roll books, 1909-1914; and work department records, 1911-1914. They contain: annual reports, summaries of meetings, members present, resolutions, number of garments made and distributed, donations, 1886-1913, roll call names and addresses, 1909-1914, and type of article sewn with date of completion, 1911-1914.
Series V: MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS, AUXILIARY GROUPS AND SCRAPBOOK MATERIALS, 1888-1949 with gaps. Arranged by item.
Records include a casebook of relief work, “Book IV,” 1895-1920, containing managers’ accounts, an alphabetical list of recipients with names and addresses, descriptions of their poverty and the type or amount of aid distributed. Also, a report of the Welfare and Relief Department, May 1941, a workroom order book, 1929-1938, an American Red Cross workroom record book, 1933-1934, and a revised constitution, 1895. Also, three scrapbooks compiled by Mrs. A.F.R. Martin, which include newspaper clippings on the Society’s annual report (1878) and its 100th anniversary celebration (1903), newspaper photographs of the Society and invitations to socials; Mrs. Martin’s correspondence; and letters and newspaper clippings on the Fresh Air Fund. Minutes of the Margaret Symington Clark Memorial Fund’s Board of Trustees, 1876-1949, which include summaries of semi-annual and annual meetings, lists of members, resolutions, and some financial and investment records.
Processed by Eileen Ferrer, Seton Hall University, December 1982
The New Jersey Historical Society