American Female Guardian Society. William Momberger, designer, engraver Samuel J. Pinkney.
American Female Guardian Society.
American Female Guardian Society.

American Female Guardian Society.

New York: February 1863. Broadside wood-engraving, 30.5 x 25.5 cm.

A fine certificate of membership in the American Female Guardian Society in New York City, issued during its third decade of operation.

The Female Moral Reform Society of New York was established by a group of women in 1834 with the intent of reforming New York City prostitutes as well as bolstering the morality of the population in general. Members of the society paid visits to the city’s impoverished areas and jails where they preached, handed out tracts, and assisted the poor. By 1840, the society created an employment agency for prostitutes, changed its name to the American Female Guardian Society, and started distributing food and clothing to the needy. The certificate offered here confers lifetime membership on Miss Carissa Doolittle. Ms. Doolittle was sponsored by a Deacon J. C. Janes and his deceased wife, Mary H. Janes, who donated $20 to the Society. The certificate features two inset illustrations, one entitled, “Street Training” and the other “Family Culture,” the former showing two young girls reproaching a street urchin while a grandmother embraces an infant nearby. The second inset shows a happy family sitting indoors around a table and lamp, with yet again a woman cradling a baby in the background.

Members of the society would frequently shelter destitute women and children in their homes to keep them off the streets. However, due to the large number of needy souls, in 1847 the society opened a “Home for the Friendless and House of Industry” on First Avenue until they could build their own facility on 30th Street. Two small inset illustrations appear to depict their main facilities during the early 1860s, the society being chartered in 1849. The House took in mothers with children, widows, unemployed young women, and orphaned children of both sexes. While residence was not intended to be permanent, the society’s demand for space increasingly grew, which prompted them to build a new facility in the Bronx in 1901. Facsimile signatures of the society’s president and secretary are printed at the bottom.

CONDITION: Good, light soiling and foxing; one 9 cm dampstain at the top edge, one small chip in the upper right margin.

Item #4979