Hannah Kinney’s Records of the Newark Female
Charitable Society, 1803-1804
Courtesy, New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, NJ
Kinney Family Papers, MG 785, Box 1, record books. The
History of the Newark Female Charitable Society
(Newark, NJ: Newark Female Charitable Society, 1903).
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The Newark Female Charitable Society was organized in January 31, 1803 for the purpose of "devis[ing] some means for caring for the poor and distressed persons in the village." At this early date, social services were not provided by local government; yet as the town grew, so did the number of the poor in its streets. Some of the well-off women of Newark took it into their own hands to get "systematic aid to the needy." The Society divided Newark into six districts and chose a manager to visit the poor in each. In its first year, the Society raised $246.50 from 116 contributors. Besides supplying the poor with necessities, the Society provided flax, wool, and cotton to unemployed needy folk so they could produce articles for sale.
Hannah Kinney was one of the first six managers. She kept notes of her visits and records of the supplies she purchased for the needy. The three entries included here are from her carefully kept notes. It was her responsibility to decide who in her district needed help and whether they were "worthy" of the aid of the Society. She found families in the winter without wood for heating and without the barest essentials of life. Firewood and fabrics for clothing (such as
drugget, a woolen fabric, and bird’seye, a cotton fabric ) were the most common supplies she provided. The entries in Kinney’s record book give a very bleak picture of the living and health conditions for the poor at the beginning of the 19th century.