Chapter

The Politics of Chivalry

in American Creed

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780226561981
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226561998 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226561998.003.0009
The Politics of Chivalry

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Abolitionism constituted one strain of antebellum philanthropy. Far less volatile were the growing array of female-controlled charities and reform movements that ran the gamut from humanitarianism to labor reform. Many of these women's groups pursued politically oriented agendas, whether through petition drives or ongoing requests for state and municipal appropriations. The common denominator that united them was their dependence on what might be termed “the politics of chivalry”—their shared reliance on the patronage and good will of male politicians. Despite the rhetoric of austerity, several male-controlled charities and societies did very well indeed during these years, receiving sizable public allocations under both Whiggish and Democratic administrations. Charities benefited a dual constituency: the trustees who managed them and the people they aided. The long-standing quasi-governmental roles of the middle-class white women who headed urban charities and asylums were curtailed in the Jackson and Van Buren years by public cutbacks.

Keywords: abolitionism; philanthropy; chivalry; charities; Democratic administrations

Chapter.  11250 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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