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Excerpts of the "Constitution of the Hawley Female Charitable Society"
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Following the American Revolution, debate centered on to whom "liberty" should be extended, and what was the proper role of women. By the early 1800s, popular opinion held that women's role was the "domestic sphere" where women's "natural virtue" could guide the family. At the same time, there was a growing missionary zeal to reach out to the unlearned to ensure that as the country grew and expanded, a Christian-based social order would be extended into new settlements in the west. Groups like the Hawley Female Charitable Society established a precedent for women working in the public sphere, while remaining in an acceptably feminine role. They laid the foundation for later crusades, such as the abolitionist and the temperance movements, in which women played major roles. As stated in the Constitution of the Hawley Female Charitable Society, the group's purpose was to provide Bibles, religious books and education to "the destitute in our own and in heathen lands." The members of this organization paid annual membership dues and likely raised money through fairs and other means to contribute to missionary work.
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