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Pages from the "Records of the Female Benevolent Society of the Town of Deerfield"
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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The founders of the Female Benevolent Society in the Town of Deerfield believed that benevolence and sympathy are both of the "grand essentials of pure religion" and thus united to help "those who are in greatest need." The Society aided children from the age of five to fifteen by distributing clothing, books and "encouragement to a course of virtue and religion." The latter meant that a committee of society members would meet in schools where recipients of aid attended to witness "such exercises in reading, chatechism &c." The group required recipient children to attend these exercises in order to receive further aid. Groups such as this sought to ease the effects of poverty but did little to eliminate it altogether. This approach was a mixture of social welfare and control, and it allowed women to work outside a strictly "domestic sphere" while remaining within their traditional feminine roles.
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