Benevolent Society


The organization was divided into three separate committees: sewing, relief and investigation, and fundraising. Blanchard also arranged for the Cook County Hospital to care for some cases. The group expanded to include other organizations, eventually becoming the Associates Charities, which was a predecessor of the United Way.


The Benevolent Society was organized in 1883 by Mrs. Sarah Blanchard after a particularly wintery day. Her children came home from school and told her about a baby who had frozen to death during the night. Mrs. Blanchard helped this family, and afterwards put an announcement in the newspaper calling for like-minded ladies to meet at her house to organize a society for for the relief of the poor and suffering in Evanston. The meetings were held at different people’s homes, and was organized into three separate committees: sewing, relief and investigation, and fundraising. Mrs. Blanchard also arranged with Cook County Hospital for some patients to be cared for upon her recommendation. To prevent some of the overlap between between churches and them, there was a vice-president from some of the churches. A sewing school was also formed that winter to teach girls from needy families to sew; the Kitchen Garden Association was also formed at this time. The Kitchen Garden Association taught girls how to clean, set tables, make beds and perform other housework so that they could work to earn money to support themselves and their families. The Flower Mission, which collected and sent flowers to Chicago for distribution, consolidated with the Benevolent Society. In the winter of 1889 a cooking school was organized, which taught the girls how to be cooks, waitresses, and house maids. During this time, the organization also started to discuss the need for a hospital in Evanston. In 1892, the name of the group changed from the Benevolent Society to the Associated Charities, and the organization moved into a permanent home at City Hall. In 1897, they also decided to stop giving aid to the able-bodied without the equivalent of work in return. The organization continued to do its charity work, and was a predecessor of the United Way.


The Benevolent Society provided charity for the poor and needy in Evanston through fundraising and teaching useful skills to girls so that they could become economically independent. It was an early proponent of a hospital for Evanston as well as a forerunner to the United Way.

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