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The Poor Belong to Us: Catholic Charities and American Welfare [Hardcover]

Dorothy M Brown

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Book Description

31 Mar 1998
Between the Civil War and World War II, Catholic charities evolved from volunteer and local origins into a centralized and professionally trained workforce that played a prominent role in the development of American welfare. Dorothy Brown and Elizabeth McKeown document the extraordinary efforts of Catholic volunteers to care for Catholic families and resist Protestant and state intrusions at the local level, and they show how these initiatives provided the foundation for the development of the largest private system of social provision in the United States. It is a story tightly interwoven with local, national, and religious politics that began with the steady influx of poor Catholic immigrants into urban centres. Supported by lay organizations and by sympathetic supporters in city and state politics, religious women operated foundling homes, orphanages, protectories, reformatories, and foster care programmes for the children of the Catholic poor in New York City and in urban centres around the country. When pressure from reform campaigns challenged Catholic child care practices in the first decades of the 20th century, Catholic charities underwent a significant transformation, coming under central diocesan control and growing increasingly reliant on the services of professional social workers. And as the Depression brought nationwide poverty and an overwhelming need for public solutions, Catholic charities faced a staggering challenge to their traditional claim to stewardship of the poor. In their account, Brown and McKeown add an important dimension to our understanding of the transition from private to state social welfare.

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Thoroughly researched and meticulous in its reasoning...[this book] shows how Catholic charities helped poor people in America between the 1870s and 1930s...[It] remind[s] us how 'Catholic' poverty seemed for half a century, and how effectively a generation of more prosperous Catholics reacted to it. It also shows how the idea of caring for the poor, for centuries a religious duty, was rapidly secularized in America..."The Poor Belong to Us" takes its place as a study and reference work of permanent value.--Patrick Allitt "Books and Culture "

About the Author

Dorothy M. Brown is Professor of History at Georgetown University. Elizabeth McKeown is Associate Professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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