Macquarie University
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Philanthropy and the woman's sphere, Sydney, 1870-circa 1900

posted on 2022-03-28, 14:54 authored by Judith Godden
This thesis investigates the impact of an ideological construct - the woman's sphere - on philanthropy in Sydney during 1870-1900. The woman's sphere was a hegemonic concept which denoted the activities and functions deemed appropriate for women. Women were encouraged to work within their sphere in philanthropy and restricted from working in areas or ways outside their sphere. Within these limits, women had a distinct and important impact on philanthropy. -- Part I examines women's philanthropy in the 870s. The first two chapters deal with the major areas of women's philanthropy; the care of girls, mixed-sex groups of children, the sick and working class women. It is argued that women's involvement in these areas was increasingly justified as being within the woman's sphere. Chapter 3 analyses two Refuges for ex-prostitutes, the essential agreement on philanthropic aims between sectarian organisations and the relationship between the lady and the female within the woman's sphere. -- The 1880s, it is argued in Part II, was a decade when the lady became increasingly confident of her right to solve social problems considered to be within the philanthropic woman's sphere. In successive chapters, the impact of the woman's sphere concept on the philanthropic care of children and adults is analysed. The impact on the individual of the woman's sphere concept and the meaning of being a lady within that sphere is examined in Chapter 6. -- Part III discusses the changes in, and the expansion of, woman's sphere philanthropy during the 1890s. Although a select group of ladies still dominated women's philanthropy, much of their power and prestige was eroded. The woman's sphere concept remained but it was much less a means by which women philanthropists could justify independent action. -- In conclusion, it is argued that the woman's sphere concept is essential to an understanding of nineteenth-century life. Whilst this thesis demonstrates its impact on philanthropy, the concept was also a key determinant of women's activities in other areas.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- PART I: The 1870s -- Philanthropy for children: the Royal Commission and women philanthropists' "Natural rights" -- Philanthropic care for adults within the woman's sphere: diversity and limits -- Nuns and evangelicals: ladies and females: a case study of two refuges for prostitutes -- PART II: The 1880s -- Women's philanthropic care of the young: influence and expansion within the woman's sphere -- Women's philanthropy for adults: confidence within the woman's sphere -- A lady and a philanthropist: Helen Fell, 1882-92 -- PART III: The 1890s -- Philanthropic care of the young: from the lady and towards the mother -- Philanthropy for adults: the declining role of the lady within the woman's sphere -- Conclusion.


'Biographical references': leaf 384-409. Bibliography: leaf 418-434

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD) , Macquarie University, School of History, Philosophy and Politics

Department, Centre or School

School of History, Philosophy and Politics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Janet Ramsay

Additional Supervisor 1

Jill Roe

Additional Supervisor 2

R. B. Walker


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Judith Godden 1983.




New South Wales


xxiii, 434 leaves ill

Former Identifiers

mq:5303 1333715