Single women and philanthropy: A case study of women's associational life in bristol, 1880-1914
Martin, M. (2008) Single women and philanthropy: A case study of women's associational life in bristol, 1880-1914. Women's History Review, 17 (3). pp. 395-417. ISSN 0961-2025
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09612020801924522
This article examines the philanthropic and local government work undertaken by single women in Bristol in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Focusing in particular on the life and work of one woman, Mary Clifford, the article considers the importance of voluntary associations in providing a network of support which facilitated the entry of women into public life. It argues that single women of different political persuasions defined themselves as members of civic society in terms of their contribution to social progress. In addressing specific social problems, women developed a network of philanthropic sites and delineated a space for themselves in which they felt safe to explore new ways of being. Acting as members of charitable organisations and other associations, single women were able to traverse the boundaries of class and gender without any loss of social status. Supported by like-minded people from their own social class, they were able to develop initiatives in response to particular social evils. In so doing, they linked the private and public space of the city in new ways: holding drawing room meetings to discuss political campaigns; inviting pauper children or 'feeble minded' girls into the family home; setting up new institutions for women and children; visiting and inspecting established institutions. They were also emboldened to enter the streets and homes where the poor lived and worked, traversing the boundaries of class and gender without loss of social status.