Women as Objects and Agents of Charity in Eighteenth-Century Birmingham
This chapter explores the experiences of women as both donors and recipients of charity, through a case study of one eighteenth-century town, Birmingham. It begins by looking at women as objects of charity; examining charities through the different stages of the female lifecycle children, women in childbirth and women alone rather than by type of organisation. The chapter considers women's activities as agents of charity as donors, trustees, subscribers and committees, bearing in mind the fact that individual women may well have been involved in more than one type of activity. Whatever the precise criteria for female 'objects of charity', whether by residence, religious affiliation or personal attributes of integrity and sobriety, the most common causes of poverty to be relieved were age and infirmity. The experience of women as objects of charity in Birmingham was probably typical and most women's experience of charity would have been as recipients.