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Document Study Sheet

First Annual Report, Philadelphia Orphan Society, 1816

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About this Organizational Record

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Historical Background

Discussion Questions

Level: Middle School and above

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More Document Study Sheets

More of this TYPE: Organizational Records

More of this TIME PERIOD: 1800-1849

More on these TOPICS: Health, Education & Welfare


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Traditionally, it was the job of the community to take care of its old, infirm, and poor. Neighbors and extended families provided mutual aid in harsh times. By 1800, the first phases of industrialization in the United States had created a separation between home and work, and many people migrated from the countryside to cities in search of paid labor. Individuals who came to cities often lost their networks of mutual support, while the prevalence of disease and high mortality rates in urban areas resulted in increased need for long-term care for orphans.

As cities in the new Republic grew into centers of trade and manufacturing, they established more formal institutions to provide assistance to the needy. When the Philadelphia Orphan Society was founded in 1815, it brought order and propriety to the mission of helping children who had lost their parents. This portion of the Society’s first annual report lists the rules and regulations of this undertaking and identifies expectations for both the providers and recipients of assistance.

For more information on the Philadelphia Orphan society, go to JWA’s Women of Valor Rebecca Gratz exhibit.

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1. Whom do these rules affect within the Orphan Society?

2. What different “jobs” are identified in the document? What responsibility does everyone affiliated with the orphanage share?

3. What did the organizers of Orphan Society expect the children to learn?

4. What is absent from the orphans’ curriculum? Why might these subjects have been omitted?

5. Is this a religious institution?

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How to Cite This Page
Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA - Organizational Records - First Annual Report, Philadelphia Orphan Society." <>.