II-174417 | Ladies Benevolent Institution, Montreal, QC, 1909

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Ladies Benevolent Institution, Montreal, QC, 1909
Wm. Notman & Son
1909, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  child (1308) , informal (1120) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

Many parents ran into trouble supporting their children. Wages for most unskilled workers were barely enough to provide a living; any bout of unemployment or illness meant that already tight budgets were stretched to the limit and often resulted in destitution. It was at times like these that families appealed to private children's charities like the Montreal Ladies' Benevolent Society, shown here, for help. Charities of this sort were formed by groups of philanthropic citizens, usually women, organised into incorporated societies. Most of them admitted children free of charge during periods of family crisis (although some charged board) and returned them when the situation had improved. While cared for by the charity, children received a basic education and skills training. Boys and girls who for some reason could not return to their families were either apprenticed or placed in other families once they reached their teens. Between 1832 and 1921 the Ladies' Benevolent Society admitted more than 3,000 children.

  • What

    Here we see the Ladies' Benevolent Society children, dressed in their uniforms, in the institution yard in 1909. Also present are the teacher, the Lady Superintendent, and several nurse attendants.

  • Where

    The Ladies' Benevolent Society built their three-storey home on Berthelet (now Ontario) Street in 1856. By 1909 when this photograph was taken several additions had been made.

  • When

    A number of child charities of this sort were built in 19th-century Canada. Founded in 1832 by a group of upper-middle-class women, Montreal's Ladies' Benevolent Society was one of the earliest.

  • Who

    This was the main Protestant charity which families could turn to when in a crisis. The institution admitted children as well as elderly women (until 1917) and female convalescents. The services for children still exist today in a different form.