This was considered one of the most surprising discoveries I ever found!
Whenever I try to researching anything in Whitpain, I found almost nothing. But whenever I research a topic I want to post on my blog, there were times I suddenly found something else I want to look into. In this case, I intended to research about Whitpain's role during the Civil War, but I suddenly found something about the Whitpain Ladies’ Aid Society.
The Establishment of the Ladies’ Aid Society
Even before women joined the force in the two World Wars, the women during the 1860s organized a group to aid the Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.
This organization was first organized by families of those who were fighting in the war. They search around for food and supplies they can find and send them to the soldiers on the battlefields. The exception was that there were families who were poor to send supplies to the soldiers, and there were soldiers who didn't even have families of their own. With women working together to help provide as many resources as possible, the Ladies’ Aid Society was created. It was also known as the Soldiers' Aid Society.
"In the North, women had been working for decades to reform society and one of the main aims had been the abolition of slavery. Many of these women saw the impending war as a means to finally achieve this goal, and the last thing they were willing to do was abandon the cause at such a decisive moment. Other women of the North had not been particularly active in the abolition cause, but they wanted to do what they could to help their husbands, fathers, brothers, and other loved ones preserve the Union."
- Beverly C. Tomek, "Women and Soldiers' Aid Societies"
Fun Fact #1: Women from Bridgeport, Connecticut established the first official Ladies' Aid Society on April 15, 1861.
Whitpain Ladies’ Aid Society
The first meeting was held on November 3, 1862, in the home of Jesse B. Fisher in Centre Square. The purpose of creating the society was to "aid and comfort of sick and wounded soldiers on the battlefield, in the hospitals and in the refreshments saloons in Philadelphia."
There were 43 women who joined the Ladies' Aid Society. The society appointed committees to collect supplies and forward then to the hospitals. When funding was needed to buy goods, they created lecture courses where tickets and refreshments were sold. They also arranged entertainment events to gain even more funding, including having a well-known magician Signor Blitz (before Harry Houdini) preform for the town.
Their final meeting took place on March 31, 1866, where they packed many essential items like clothes, food, hygiene products, and bedding, to hospitals around the United States. They also tallied the money they received from events and lectures of $752.66. With purchases of groceries, clothing, and sewing materials, they spent $649.61. All was left remaining was $103.05. They all agreed to give away the remaining cash to the Soldiers' Home in Philadelphia.
Blitz, Antonio. "Benefit of the Ladies' Aid Society of Whitpain Township, Montgomery Co." Civil War Playbills Collection. Library Company of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA. https://digital.librarycompany.org/islandora/object/Islandora%3A8645.
McGrath, Jane. "How Ladies' Aid Societies Worked." How Stuff Works. https://money.howstuffworks.com/economics/volunteer/organizations/ladies-aid-society.htm.
Memorial Volume of the Whitpain Ladies’ Aid Society for the Relief of the Sick and Wounded Soldiers, During the Great Southern Rebellion, 1862-1864. (Philadelphia: J.A. Wagenseller, 1869). https://www.wvalleyhs.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Memorial-Volume-of-the-Whitpain-Ladies-Aid-Society-4126.pdf.
Tomek, Beverly C. "Women and Soldiers' Aid Societies." Essential Civil War Curriculum. Accessed January 18, 2021. https://www.essentialcivilwarcurriculum.com/women-and-soldiers-aid-societies.html.