Constitution of the Worcester Female Samaritan Society


Background Notes

Constitution-making was a firm tradition in the early American Republic.   It was so ingrained in their way of life since the first colonial charters and compacts that most organizations had something that could be called a constitution.  This was an alien idea to most foreign visitors, including such men as Alexis De Tocqueville who commented on the practice in Democracy in America.

The Worcester Female Samaritan Society was founded in 1827, at a time when it was unthinkable for women to take a public role.  Women were not yet permitted to speak in public, but these women of the upper and upper-middle classes in Worcester, Massachusetts, took up a cause that lay close to the woman's nature and traditional roles: the poor.  At this time there were two broad tendencies among women unhappy with their restricted "sphere."  One was to confront the stereotypes of the submissive wife and mother, while the second was to work within those notions of womanhood and expand the boundaries of what it meant to be a woman.  These women in Worcester were creating a public role for themselves within the boundaries of tradition.

Equally traditional was the question of the so-called worthy and unworthy poor.  Worcester women did not wish to assist those whom they regarded as the authors of their own poverty, such as the intemperate.  The society aimed to help those who deserved help, such as widows and orphans.  It also require that those receiving assistant had to provide a moral basis of education for children.  This constitution lays out the structure and framework of the society, including the means for election of officers, and how the alms would be distributed.

Transcription of Primary Source


Female Samaritan Society.





It is a well known fact that the poor inhabitants of our village have increased within a few years, and that demands on the sympathy and charity of the benevolent, are more frequent than formerly. In some cases of distress the relief afforded has been short of the actual wants of the sufferer, while in others, because more known, the supply has exceeded what the case required—To render the distribution of charity more equal and effectual, it is thought expedient to form a Society among the Ladies of Worcester, to be known by the name of The SAMARITAN SOCIETY, through whose agency this part of out population may be assisted. We propose to clothe the destitute, to provide bedding and other necessaries for the sick, and occasionally to assist in purchasing fuel. It may be objected, that the Town has already provided an asylum for the needy, and are ready to relieve any who will apply ; but to this we answer, that is not to aid such as are, or ought to be, paupers of the Town, that we associate ourselves. There are many families and individuals, who in health support themselves, but in sickness, require aid which must be immediate to prove availing. Strangers too come under our consideration, nor are the widow and fatherless to be forgotten.

We ask the rich as Stewards of a kind and bounteous Providence to join us in our benevolent undertaking, remembering that he who giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord. We ask of the widow her mite, knowing that in the day of account great will be her reward. We ask the prayers of all, that the blessing of God may rest on our philanthropic exertions ; and may our united efforts tend not only to diminish the sum of human suffering, but promote in ourselves the that spirit of love and benevolence, which shall fit us for a higher and happier state of existence.—We subscribe to the following, as Articles of our Constitution.




The Society shall be known as The Samaritan Society.


The meetings of the Society shall be holden [sic] on the second Tuesday in each month, at the Vestry of the Calvinist Church. The annual meeting shall be in October, at which time the officers shall be chosen. All accounts shall be settled semi-annually.


The officers shall consist of a President, Secretary, Treasurer and twelve assistants, who with a Prudential Committee, selected from the elderly Ladies of the Society, shall be termed, The Board of Managers. It shall be the duty of the President to call all meetings of the Society and preserve order therein, draw all orders on the Treasurer, and in case of the President’s absence, the duty may be performed by one of the prudential Committee.

It shall be the duty of the Secretary to record the transactions of the Society and of the Managers, to give notice of the annual meeting, and to keep a list of Subscribers and donors with the sums or articles given. This record is to be exhibited at the semi-annual meetings.

It shall be the duty of the Treasurer to receive all monies due from Subscribers and all donations, to give to the Secretary an account of the same for record, to keep the funds of the Society, to deliver on proper application, all articles of clothing, bedding or money ; and to exhibit at each semi-annual meeting, an account of every thing received and distributed with proper vouchers.


No money shall be drawn from the Treasury without an order, authorized by the

Managers, and signed by the President. This order shall e the Treasurer’s voucher.


The Prudential Committee shall be consulted on all occasions, where there is a doubt as to the expediency or proprietary of relieving the object, who has applied for assistance, or when any large draft is to be made on the funds of the Society for any individual case. They shall also be consulted in the appropriation of money.


At the monthly meetings of the Society, the Managers shall examine the state of the funds, after which they may cut and prepare garments, as the wants of applicants may require. Should there be more work to be done than time will admit, those members who have most leisure, must be requested to assist in making them during the month. Each member may introduce a friend. The board shall choose a Committee to make their purchases.—Any five of the board shall constitute a quorum. Each of the Managers shall is required, assist the Treasurer by distributing the clothing and bedding, one month.


Whenever application is made to the Society, unless it is a well known case, one or more of the managers shall visit the applicant, and ascertain the nature and extent of her wants. On recommendation from any three of the board, the President shall give an order on the Treasurer for such articles, as shall have been found necessary.


Such of the Managers as recommend a family or individual to the attention of the Society, must be responsible for the safe return of all articles loaned. They must be sent in good order to the house of the Treasurer, in whose hands every thing belonging to the Society is to remain, unless by agreement at the monthly meeting one of the Managers assist her.


Every person admitted to membership must pay fifty cents annually in advance. Donations in money, or any old garments suitable for either sex, or bedding, will be gratefully received.


In any case where the residence of the applicant is doubtful, the Secretary shall address a note to the Selectman, that they may adopt such measures as they deem expedient.


No children are to be clothed unless the parents consent, that they shall regularly attend public worship.


No alteration shall be made in the constitution, but by a vote of two thirds of the members present, at the annual meeting.


Any member may withdraw from the Society on addressing a note to the President, who shall grant her dismission. [sic]

Curator Notes

Exact Title: 
Constitution of the Worcester Female Samaritan Society
8 pages
Worcester Female Samaritan Society
Griffin and Morrill
Place of Publication: 
Worcester, Massachusetts
15 cm.
American Antiquarian Society
Catalog Code: 
Dated Pams.