‘Many to Take Care of’: Charity, Philanthropy, and Paternalism
This chapter explores the functions of patronage as exercised by early Victorian aristocratic women in their uses of charity. It is divided into three parts. The first section considers personal charity — direct involvement with the individual in need — and examines the ways in which aristocratic women constructed their responsibilities and obligations towards the poor, relating it to an understanding of the functioning of a paternalist society. The second looks at the interaction between aristocratic women and organized philanthropy, arguing that in the context of middle-class philanthropic activity, aristocratic women continued to treat the poor as beneficiaries of patronage and to take advantage of their social position for the benefit of their dependants. The third section turns to their engagement with public causes and crises, suggesting through a pair of case-studies that the combination of class and gender gave aristocratic women a unique voice.
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