Skip to main content

Listening to Patients: The Opal as a Source

The Opal, which was “dedicated to usefulness,” is a ten volume Journal that was written and edited by the patients of the Utica State Lunatic Asylum, (1851 – 1860). The more than 3,000 pages of material in The Opal includes political commentary, humor, advice, and theory on insanity in the form of articles, poetry, prose, cartoons, plays, and literature.Continue Reading »

Poor Relief and the Almshouse

Written by Dr. David Wagner, University of Southern Maine. “Poorhouses (almshouses were simply the same thing with the old English word “alms” for charity used) started out rather small, sometimes in private homes, and at first were scattered in America. But in the 1820s, when America ceased being a completely agricultural society and began to receive more immigration, reformers such as Josiah Quincy in Massachusetts and John Yates in New York led a drive to build almshouses or poorhouses in every town and city. Their purposes were deeply steeped in a desire to not only save money but also to deter the ‘undeserving poor.””Continue Reading »

New York State’s County Poor Houses (1864)

In 1864, an investigation was made concerning the treatment of the “insane” confined in the county poor houses of New York State. Dr. Sylvester D. Willard’s Report was the instrument that persuaded the New York State Legislature to pass, on April 8, 1865, The Willard Act, “An Act to authorize the establishment of a State asylum for the chronic insane, and for the better care of the insane poor, to be known as The Willard Asylum for the Insane.” What follows is the original report to the New York State Legislature by Dr. Sylvester D. Willard, Secretary of the Medical Society.Continue Reading »

Brief History of Government Charity in New York (1603 – 1900)

This entry describes the history of legislative actions taken by the New York State Government for the poor in New York State from 1603 to 1900. Derived from the research of Linda S. Stuhler. Continue Reading »

Home Missionary Society of Philadelphia

While some children required long-term placement, assistance was often temporary. One worker describes a case below which particularly displays the “uplift” mentality of the Society:

“After a meeting, I called on a widow with four children. She is sick. To secure daily bread, her boy, twelve years of age, sells papers. He called to see me, asking for a situation in the city, whereby he might help his mother. I knew a man of business who wanted a boy, took him with me and secured the place. He has been with him three weeks, and gives such good satisfaction that his wages have been raised, and he is promised permanent employment with a knowledge of the trade. When the mother had sufficiently recovered she came to thank me for the interest I had taken in her son. In this case it was not the money given which called forth her gratitude, but the fact that I had helped the family to help themselves.”Continue Reading »

Sisters of Charity of New York

Written by Michael Barga. “Some of the earliest sustained social service institutions and health care facilities in New York City were started by the sisters. Their allegiance to local Catholics in the city came in conflict with their obedience to their superiors … eventually leading to the establishment of a separate order recognized as the Sisters of Charity of New York (SCNY).”Continue Reading »

Why A Woman’s Rights Convention?

Determined to overcome the social, civil, and religious disabilities that crippled women of their day, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first woman’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, on 19 July 1848. It drew over 300. Stanton drafted the “Declaration of Sentiments,” a document that stated “men and women are created equal”Continue Reading »

The Declaration of Sentiments

This resolution calling for woman suffrage had passed, after much debate, at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, convened by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. In The Declaration of Sentiments, a document based upon the Declaration of Independence, the numerous demands of these early activists were elucidated.Continue Reading »

Woman Suffrage: History and Time Line

A resolution calling for woman suffrage had passed, after much debate, at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, convened by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. In The Declaration of Sentiments, a document based upon the Declaration of Independence, the numerous demands of these early activists were elucidated. The 1848 convention had challenged America to a social revolution that would touch every aspect of life. Early women’s rights leaders believed suffrage to be the most effective means to change an unjust system.Continue Reading »

Tubman, Harriet

Tubman had made the perilous trip to slave country 19 times by 1860, including one especially challenging journey in which she rescued her 70-year-old parents. Of the famed heroine, who became known as “Moses,” Frederick Douglass said, “Excepting John Brown — of sacred memory — I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than [Harriet Tubman].”Continue Reading »

View graphic versionView graphic version