Have you ever participated in a Bake Sale to raise money for your child’s school? People, usually women, bake something that can be distributed in pieces, give it away to the school, and allow the school to sell it for money. This is one of many forms of philanthropy that your female ancestors may have participated in. Other forms of philanthropy involve performing free labor to help others.
In 1787 the Society for Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children was established. It was originally staffed entirely by women, many of whom were wealthy women who volunteered their time and effort.
Sometime in the 1800’s, women started using baked goods as a way to apply their skills to create something that could be used for fundraising. Women started creating baked goods to raise money for a cause. Some women priced the baked goods to sell, collected the revenues, and kept an accurate record of the funds that were raised.
During the Civil War, mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters provided what they could for the military men in their lives. They sent handmade quilts and woven coverlets, to soldiers. Women worked, without being paid for their labor, to organize large networks that could collect and gather quilts, linens, bandages, shirts, socks, undergarments, and nutritious foods to the men in the military. This was organized by local Ladies Aid societies.
“Sanitary fairs” were fundraisers that women organized in an an effort to raise money for the United States Sanitary Commission. The Sanitary Fairs sold handicrafts made by women, food made by women, and game tickets. The United States Sanitary Commission was created in an effort to prevent American Civil War soldiers from dying from dysentery, diarrhea, typhoid and malaria. The Commission worked on improving sanitation, building large, well-ventilated hospitals, and encouraging women to join the nursing corp.
Women organized fundraising fairs to support the anti-slavery cause. A Massachusetts fair in 1836 was the first time fundraisers sold an Abolition quilt. This was the earliest known fundraising quilt.
Women also created handmade goods to support the temperance movement. Temperance groups charged for names embroidered on blocks “purchased” by the supporter. The blocks were then put together into quilts that were sold at fundraisers to raise money for the temperance movement.
In the 1910s, the Girl Scouts started selling cookies to fundraise troop activities. The cookies were made in the kitchens of the families of individual Girl Scouts, with mothers volunteering as technical advisers.
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