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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

MARTHA WASHINGTON AND DORCAS SOCIETY

MARTHA WASHINGTON AND DORCAS SOCIETY

The MARTHA WASHINGTON AND DORCAS SOCIETY (1843-49), established by REBECCA ROUSE, was the first citywide relief organization in Cleveland. The name of the society reflected its twin concerns: "Martha Washington" indicating its emulation of the eastern, Washingtonian TEMPERANCE movement, and "Dorcas" representing the Biblical woman known for good works and charity. Only women were society officers and full members; men could join as honorary members. The society concentrated on poor relief rather than temperance. It provided food, clothing, wood, and sometimes a job or a place with a concerned family, filling a need for temporary at-home relief. The Martha Washington and Dorcas Society disbanded in 1849, partly because Rouse, its most active worker and "First Directress" turned to other efforts (namely the Society for the Relief of the Poor, founded in 1850, and the Protestant Orphan Asylum, founded in 1852). The society also found it increasingly difficult to aid the growing number of poor residents (that year it had helped 1,051 persons). Its last annual report (1849) called for a permanent form of relief.


See also PHILANTHROPY and WELFARE/RELIEF.