In this book, Lori D. Ginzberg examines benevolent work performed by middle-and upper-middle-class American women from the 1820's to 1885 and offers a new interpretation of the shifting political contexts and meanings of this long tradition of women's reform activism.
Ginzberg, professor of history and women's studies at Penn State University, here theorizes that organized charity in the U.S. in the last century evolved from a gender-based movement to a class-based one. The prominent do-gooders in the early 1800s were primarily white, Protestant women of means whose activism flowered after the Civil War in suffragette, temperance and other movements. Citing feminist studies of the period and the work and writing of the century's activist women, Ginzberg traces the role of women in the development of class identity and the emergence of a middle class. The long tradition of women's reform activism is copiously documented in this scholarly thematic study. (Aug.)