In presenting a résumé of the work of women in social reform, one finds between the first and second half of the passing century a distinct cleavage. The initiative in any reform movement must always be taken by the individual. It may, however, be carried on either by the initiator’s own effort, strengthened along parallel lines by other individuals whom she may inspire, or a reform may be advanced through the organization of its friends. Broadly speaking, individualism characterizes the method of the first half of the century; organization is the approved agency of the last half.

The necessarily restricted view of social reform contemplated in this chapter may probably be best introduced by reference to certain distinctive organizations devoted to that end.

Of these, the first general division includes associations dealing with the criminal mind or erring classes such as inmates of prisons, jails, reformatories, houses of detention, houses of correction, etc.

The second great class includes all of those organizations which concern themselves not with the punishment but with the prevention of crime and evil. The number of such organizations is legion, the specific objects numerous, the methods quite as diverse; but underlying them all, supplying motive to all, is the growing recognition of the solidarity of the race.

The third grand division includes all societies occupied with the immediate amelioration of conditions including physical hardship; such as boards of guardians and the multifold [sic] charities which consider chiefly the physical instead of the spiritual being.

Under the fourth division is found an interminable list of organizations which charge themselves, neither with mature nor incipient offenders, neither with the victims of vice nor with the victims of poverty; but which have for the object the development and extension of opportunity and the exaltation of spiritual ideals.

The fifth division includes all of the numerous cooperative industrial schemes which characterize the century; both such as seek to secure a common benefit, like cooperative communities, trades and trade unions, etc., and such as at the first view appear to antagonize the common good, like monopolies and trusts.

The sixth class includes all efforts to secure for women an extension of their civil rights, a recognition of their responsible citizenship, and an equality with men of political reforms, which at once reflect and affect society, concern themselves not with human beings but with the humbler creatures, the dumb companions of man in his earthly pilgrimage. Within this smallest, but not least significant, group may be included bands of mercy, humane associations, anti-vivisection societies, and the like.


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.