In 1883, Sarah Blanchard, wife of a prominent lumber merchant, formed the Benevolent Society of Evanston after visiting a local home where a child had died from poor living conditions. The association had three areas of work: the sewing committee, the relief and investigating committee, and the fundraising committee. For many years it was the primary source of relief for families in need in Evanston.
Sarah Blaisdel Blanchard founded the Benevolent Society of Evanston in 1883, which provided organized charity to needy families throughout Evanston. She was born in New Hampshire in 1834, she married her husband, William Blanchard, in 1857. They moved from Chicago to Evanston in 1871 after the Chicago fire, where they built a house at Ridge and Davis; this later housed M.C. Armours’ family and was the site of the Rotary International Headquarters. On a winter day in 1883, Blanchard heard from her children returning from school about a baby who had frozen to death. Blanchard visited the family and found them in dire need. After helping them, she inserted a notice in the newspaper calling all women who were interested in creating a charitable society for the relief of the poor in Evanston to meet at her house. The organization was divided into three separate committees: sewing, relief and investigation, and fundraising. Blanchard also arranged with the Cook County Hospital to care for some cases. The group expanded to include other organizations, eventually becoming the Associates Charities, a predecessor of the United Way. Blanchard later moved to California with her husband, but died on July 11, 1908 in Evanston.