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The Charities of Cambridge.

Elizabeth H. Houghton.
The term “charities,” or philanthropies if the Greek form is chosen as a trifle more sonorous, has been so loosely used and so often abused by the present and passing generations-like that other noble and long-suffering word, temperance-that it needs to be strictly defined by the writer who would use it specifically without appearing offensively patronizing to certain classes of the community and effusively sentimental to others. The derivation of the phrase Charities of Cambridge ought to show to every one that by it is meant those organizations and activities in our midst whose motive power is love rather than greed of gain; that this meaning is obscured, overlaid in fact, by a certain stigma which attaches to the technical use of the word, is not the fault of the dignified Latin trisyllable or of the idea back of it, but is caused by the difficulty of apprehending and applying its simple beauty on the part of donors and recipients alike.

Under this heading I am to consider the institutions, not systematically connected with the various churches or with the university, which form a part of the life of Cambridge and are carried on wholly or in part by funds contributed without hope of return other than the consciousness of promoting the common good.

The simplest method of arrangement, for once [238] perhaps, is to begin at the climax, to tell of the synthesis, the culmination of all charitable effort as we know it to-day, and afterwards to mention the organic parts, the helpful accessories, historically precedent though many of them are to the comprehensive scheme which now embraces them and shows them the way to a fuller, more scientific efficiency.

The Associated Charities came into existence in Cambridge in the spring of 1881 (incorporated January, 1883), two years after its establishment in Boston, four years after Buffalo introduced the system into America, and twelve years after the idea of a Charity Organization society was put in practice in London. Its aim, the annihilation of pauperism by studious mastery of its causes, its motto, “Not alms but a friend” --neither of these needs elaboration or elucidation in this sketch. If any reader of this book and citizen of Cambridge is ignorant of the working and ideals, the difficulties and successes of this organization, full information is not far to seek, and it is a simple duty rather than a privilege of citizenship to acquire it. If anyone is dissatisfied with the results of its efforts let him look to it that he does his part towards making them better. This is not a scheme to lighten the responsibility of any individual for his needy neighbor, but to direct it, and to make it as far as possible helpful instead of mischievous in its effect by means of conference, the exchange of experience and advice.

Since the time when the study of medicine replaced the seeking for charms and incantations, no reform has promised such amelioration of the physical condition of the human race as that which is substituting for the old heedless, harmful almsgiving [239] the brave, accurate, sympathetic study of the most alarming distressing characteristics of our civilization.

To object to the methods of the Associated Charities as involving too much red tape and the exposure of sacred details is as childish as it would be to object to a physician who informs himself about his patient's symptoms and writes a prescription instead of impulsively administering a dose of medicine at haphazard. To hold aloof on the assumption that the old-time patronage and dole-giving has only taken another form is to underestimate the calibre of the mental and moral force which is everywhere at work on this idea.

There are, at this writing, four centres for conference, known by the districts in which they meet respectively as the Old Cambridge, the North Cambridge, the Cambridgeport and the East Cambridge conference. The central office is in the Central Square Building in Cambridgeport. At one or another of these points it is the duty of every individual, as well as of every organization, religious or secular, which aims to relieve suffering caused by poverty, to give and seek information about every applicant for aid. When this is heartily and thoroughly done the work of the Association will be relieved of its most irksome impediment to success, and the money which is now worse than wasted in ill-considered attempts to alleviate poverty will go far towards supporting schools for higher education in this important branch of learning.

Two kinds of sufferers appeal preeminently and eternally to our sympathies — the sick, and the children deprived of natural protectors. Cambridge has made good provision for meeting both the needs here suggested. [240]

The Cambridge Hospital, with which the name of Miss Emily E. Parsons, its first instigator, must always be honorably associated, was opened for patients in April, 1886. It is unusually comfortable and cheerful in aspect even for a hospital. The sun seems to shed its most genial glow over it in winter, and the breeze which sweeps through it in summer always strikes one as freshet than that obtainable in any other spot in the city. How much of this is due to the effect of that spirit of mutual forbearance and cheerful resignation, which reigns supreme here as in hospital wards everywhere, and how much to the wisdom of the original plan and the efficiency of the management, need not be determined. That a city of the size of Cambridge could wait so long before equipping itself with the means of caring for its sick poor may be a matter of surprise to those who have not reflected that in this, and other respects, we are inevitably suburban, however independent of Boston we are in civic matters.

The Holy Ghost Hospital opened the doors of a small frame house-its temporary home-only in January of 1895, to admit incurable patients of all kinds from all accessible points, though no doubt the preference always will be given to Cambridge sufferers. Though the fund hitherto secured has come through a Roman Catholic parish in Cambridge it is hoped that the future support as well as the usefulness of the hospital will be unsectarian and perfectly general.

The Middlesex Dispensary was established in July, 1892, under a staff of physicians who give each three hours a week to the work. Over fourteen thousand patients have had the benefit of free consultation and medicine at cost during the three years of its existence. [241]

A District Nurse was secured from the Boston Instructive District Nursing Association two years ago, and now visits, under the superintendence of two of its directors, the homes of those sick people who for any reason cannot go to the hospital for the professional care they need.

The Avon Place Home became a corporation in 1874, thanks chiefly to the liberality of Mr. James Huntington who was the first efficient friend, if by no means the only one, whom the homeless children of Cambridge have had. This institution has been known as the Avon Home since it took possession, in December, 1891, of the commodious house which was built for it on Mt. Auburn street and which now offers as wholesome a substitute for a paternal home as any child could have who has been deprived by sickness, death or crime of the genuine kind. The home was founded for “children found destitute within the limits of Cambridge,” and has always shown a generous spirit in its efforts to meet the demands put upon it by the absence from its constitution and by-laws of closely drawn restrictions of class, age, race or sex. About forty children are sheltered here. They attend the public schools and church services and in other ways get training-somewhat exceptional in “Homes” --which is calculated to make independent, self-respecting citizens of them.

The Home of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is located in Cambridge, though the city, as the name of the society indicates, is in no way responsible for its support. The inmates are children who come into the custody of the society through the courts of the state and are supposed to be only temporarily lodged there as a matter of convenience pending permanent settlement of their careers. [242]

The Kindergartens and Day Nurseries, on Holyoke and Moore streets, on the other hand, while supported by individual benevolence from Boston, are a valuable, almost indispensable, help to Cambridge children and their overworked mothers. We owe as much to the intelligence as to the purse of Mrs. Quincy Shaw in this charity.

Next to the children the old people, those who have passed the time for self-support and have no relatives to care for them, need a helping hand.

The Cambridge Homes for Aged People is a corporation founded in November, 1887, for the purpose of providing for “respectable, aged and indigent men and women.” The only part of this scheme in operation as yet is a Home for Aged Women, made possible by the legacy of the late Caroline A. Wood and other gifts, which shelters at present eleven inmates. It was opened in November, 1891. A Home for Aged Men and a Home for Aged Couples will be added to the work of the corporation as soon as adequate funds are provided by public-spirited Cantabrigians.

The Baptist Home for Old People and the Rescue Home — the latter a branch of the Boston Citizens' Rescue League, not especially intended to help Cambridge-deserve such description as their titles may give, though it is beyond the scope of this article to treat of them more fully.

There are a number of societies for giving temporary material relief, of which it would be difficult and unnecessary to give a complete list here. Such are the Male Humane and the Female Humane Societies, the Howard Benevolent, the North Cambridge Charitable Association, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, and the benefit associations connected with business houses or with corporations of various kinds. [243]

Most of these cooperate with the Associated Charities and resemble one another in plan and scope, having been called into being at different times to meet the needs of certain districts or certain classes of dwellers in our city. The Female Humane Society differs from the others in giving relief ostensibly in payment for work done. Women who can sew are allowed to carry to their homes basted garments which, when they are completed, are disposed of at a sale which is conducted once a year by the society.

The Cambridgeport Union Flower Mission is not connected with any church, as are so many similar missions. It brings relief of a very real and beautiful kind to many homes in which the graces of life are almost as important, and as hard to get, as the necessities.

Another class of Cambridge institutions must be mentioned here because there is no other division of this book under which they could more naturally be treated; but they are not “charities” in the sense in which the above-named undertakings are charities, for the recipients of their benefits are by no means “objects of charity,” but are simply, in most cases, ambitious, energetic young people for whom it is a pleasure to provide advantages which they could not afford to pay for at the market rates. The only reason for designating them as charities is that it would be impossible to carry them on efficiently without large gifts of money and time from people who look for no return in kind.

First in this class of beneficences I may mention --for convenience simply, without any intention of grading the value of the work done in associations, clubs or unions — the branches of the Christian Association for Young Men and for Young [244] Women, which have their rooms in Central Square, Cambridgeport. This work has certain well-known characteristics in every city of the world in which it is established, so that it is superfluous to dwell on it here. The branch for young men was started in the year 1883, that for young women in July, 1891.

The East End Christian Union and the Triangle Club, founded respectively in 1889 and in 1890, are working on similar educational and social lines in the same general section of the town — the lower Port. The Union is open to both sexes and aims to create a religious as well as a moral influence --it is in fact a development from a mission Sunday school. Its building is three years old.

The Triangle Club was originally intended as a means of utilizing the energies of young people of the First Parish Church, but has lately been reorganized on an entirely unsectarian and less localized basis.

The Prospect Union, also in Cambridgeport, is strictly educational in its efforts and is frequented by men who have less leisure for self-cultivation than they have will and ability to secure it. To this institution belongs the honor of establishing, in 1891, the University Extension idea in our midst. bringing the enlightenment which centres at Harvard within reach of the factory and shop “hands,” who have only their evenings to devote to classes, by the systematic using of student-teachers as conductors. The same system has been working equally well in connection with the Social Union in Brattle Square for two years past. In some cases one enthusiastic young instructor holds classes in both sections of the town; more often duplicate courses are held under different Haryard [245] students; for it is not difficult in these days of altruistic zeal to secure the services of whatever men are needed for such work, as is abundantly proved by the very name of the Harvard Volunteer Committee, organized a year ago to systematize and distribute to the best advantage the beneficent activity of the college.

If Old Cambridge seems less amply provided than Cambridgeport, judging from the number of sites occupied with institutions of the class we are now considering, it is because the one just mentioned, the Cambridge Social Union, occupies a larger field than the others and occupied it earlier. From the year 1871, when it was founded through the efforts of Mr. William M. Vaughan, its free reading-room, its library and its weekly entertainment as well as its classes, have offered ample and rational resource to all in this district of the town whose evenings are not apt to be spent at home or in houses of friends. Ever since in December, 1889, it moved into the building which it at present occupies, the famous old Brattle House, the Girls' Club — a branch of the national association of working Girls' Clubs, then a year old in Cambridge — has been a tenant under its roof.

The Cambridge Boys' Club, also for years hardly more than a privileged tenant, now an organic part of the Social Union, deserves mention here because of its age which is venerable for such an organization. When it was started a quarter of a century ago by Miss Anne Abbott, as an offshoot from the Social Union, clubs of that sort were far less common than they are to-day and ought to be for many a day to come.

The Woman's Christian Temperance Union has established branches in Cambridge, North Cambridge, [246] East Cambridge and Cambridgeport. This organization, as is well known, works for the purification of society by the annihilation of the liquor traffic and the suppression of vice. Its methods are mainly educational, pursued through the dissemination of temperance literature and scientific instruction regarding the effects of alcohol and the use of tobacco and other narcotics. It carries on many lines of work, among them that in the Loyal Temperance Legion, temperance instruction in Sunday schools and in mother's meetings. Religious meetings are regularly held with the prisoners of the Middlesex county jail where helpful literature is distributed.

The Cambridge Branch of the Massachusetts Indian Association was established in 1886, and a good deal of the philanthropic energy of our community has been expended upon it ever since. Interest in this organization being coextensive. with the city limits, its fairs draw workers from every parish or district, and its entertainments and meetings for arousing public sentiment have received alike general support. The money secured in such ways and by membership fees is used by vote of the executive committee--under such limitations, of course, as the state committee may impose — for the benefit of those schools, missions and settlements among the Indians which in its judgment best repay fostering care.

This society is not without its claim to be considered a Cambridge charity in the stricter sense of having Cambridge beneficiaries. It is known that at least one full-blooded young Indian was assisted to come to Cambridge and to obtain a chance to ply the trade which he had learned at school, in one of our printing establishments. He maintained [247] himself here for several years, aided by the friendly counsels of some of the ladies connected with the association. He is now, however, pursuing his career elsewhere having probably found some opening which he thought preferable to his position here.

This paper does not claim to present a complete list of Cambridge philanthropies. It is a self-evident fact that it treats none of them exhaustively. Moreover, the best of the work done in the name and under the potent spell of charity must forever escape the recorder's pen-unless he be the recording angel — just as the most endearing qualities in our friends always defy analysis. It is enough if the fact has been thus emphasized that in the life history of Cambridge the heart has its part as well as the brain and the brawn and the spirit; and that it is a part, judged by the standards of common humanity as displayed in cities everywhere, of which we have no cause to be ashamed.

But there is the danger in this, as in other fields of activity, that we shall lose sight of our ideals, shall forget that we are far enough still from their attainment.

It is because so many “priests and Levites” still pass by on the other side that the good Samaritan of the present day is overwhelmed by the magnitude of his task in caring for the many who have fallen among thieves; and must make use of all sorts of time-and-labor-saving mechanical devices if he is to keep up with it at all. These are seldom beautiful judged by ideal standards and ought not to satisfy us.

I am inclined to wish for this book a more permanent life than that of any relief-giving machinery, however well it may fit the present need, herein [248] mentioned. For the day must come when every man's abundance of money, intelligence or leisure shall be wisely and simply at the service of his neighbor who has need of these things, and he shall enrich himself in turn out of that neighbor's store, even if it consist only of patience under adversity and that poverty of spirit which is so often a compensation for poverty in worldly possessions and is suggestive of wealth in the kingdom of heaven. In that day there will be no need of dealing with want in the aggregate. Help will be given so quietly, so unconsciously, that the giver may well ask, in literal surprise that he has accomplished anything-“Lord, when saw we thee a hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick or in prison, and came unto thee?” [249] [250]

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