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Germantown Relief Society records


Held at: Germantown Historical Society [Contact Us]5501 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19144

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Germantown Historical Society. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The Germantown Relief Society was the first society in the United States to organize charitable work. It was founded in Philadelphia's 22nd Ward in 1873 at the suggestion of Unitarian Rev. Charles G. Ames and his wife Fanny Baker Ames. Its projects included the distribution of food, supplies, and clothing to the needy; free or low-cost dental treatments; and cooking classes.

According to historian Julia B. Rauch, "The stated purposes of the [Germantown Relief Society] were to render prompt and judicious relief in cases of helpless suffering not otherwise provided for; to detect imposture and prevent the waste and misapplication of charity; to put an end to promiscuous begging; to promote good understanding among Germantown's charitable societies; to collect and diffuse information concerning the extent of destitution in the ward. Its principles were to investigate carefully each case to avoid helping those able to help themselves, to give relief in kind rather than in cash, and to encourage the poor to obtain work rather than to receive gratuitous aid."


Rauch, Julia B. "Quakers and the Founding of the Philadelphia Society for Organizing Charitable Relief and Repressing Mendicancy." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 98, No. 4 (Oct., 1974): pp. 438-455.

"Relief Society if Forty Years Old." Indiana Gazette, November 21, 1913.

The collection consists of minute books, financial records, correspondence, scrapbooks, and other records. The minutes of the society date from 1873 to 1931, and are accompanied by minutes of the Woman's Auxiliary, 1873-1921. The financial records include treasurer's books, 1911-1953; a cash book, 1885-1895; monthly bills, 1945-1953; records of money received; and receipts. The collection also includes a small amount of correspondence, records of the number of visitations, scrapbooks (1912-1931), etc. There are also a large number of published reports.

Germantown Historical Society
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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