Case 3 of 3: Charity and Profit

The ideology of domesticity pervaded all forms of literature by the early nineteenth century. Femininity became synonymous with piety, charity, and industry. The moral salvation of the country, as proclaimed from the pulpit to the parlor, was dependent on the virtues of women and their ability to apply those qualities to the domestic sphere. However, women were compelled to assert their moral influence outside the home for the sake of the home itself. The unprecedented growth of cities due to industrialization and immigration led to inadequacies in housing, sanitation, and employment. The resulting poverty, intemperance, and immorality threatened the sanctity of the home.

The middle class became the most influential moral authority of the industrial age and set the standards for organized female benevolence. Public speaking by women to mixed audiences was condemned, and any involvement in issues considered radical or political was to be avoided. To finance charitable endeavors, women needed either to have men manage their financial affairs or to incorporate their organizations, creating a legally recognized body. The latter step was commonly preferred and required women to manage their fundraising efforts with the utmost propriety. The most accepted methods included subscriptions, fairs, and bazaars. Profits fed, clothed, and housed the poor, preserved historic landmarks, built monuments, and supported troops during the Civil War. In 1876 women proudly exhibited their accomplishments at the nation's centennial celebration.