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The Cambridge Association for the Care of Girls - Christina Paulson-Ellis | Work

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THE CAMBRIDGE ASSOCIATION FOR THE CARE OF GIRLS

SOCIAL WORK WITH GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN IN CAMBRIDGE 1883 -1954

Browse The Cambridge Association for the Care of Girls - Christina Paulson-Ellis

1904623638
9781904623632
01-03-2008
£14.95
£456.07
240

THE CAMBRIDGE ASSOCIATION FOR THE CARE OF GIRLS

BY  CHRISTINA PAULSON-ELLIS

Introduction  -   The Story

This is the story of the Cambridge Association for the Care of Girls from its early days as a Victorian philanthropic enterprise to the point of its renewal in the mid-twentieth century as the Cambridge Association for Social Welfare. Since that time it has had further transformations, becoming in turn the East Anglian Adoption and Family Care Association and, more recently, Adopt Anglia. In the last few years it has been linked to the Thomas Coram Foundation and become a Coram Family Project. During all this time and through the various changes of direction and purpose that they represent, the organization has treasured a rich archive in which its history has been preserved. This small book is an attempt to bring to life the first seventy years of that history.

During this time the Association was at work in Cambridge and its Cambridgeshire hinterland helping vulnerable girls and young women, and, in its more recent years, babies in need of adoption. It was an organization of and for women, representing an attempt by middle class women to help less fortunate members of their own sex lead more successful lives. Their help was aimed largely at individuals, but their story is also characterized by the strong commitment they felt towards making Cambridge a well-ordered society and a good place to live. In a positive sense, they shared this aspiration with other women in parallel organizations concerned with the health, education and general well-being of their fellow citizens. More negatively, they and their peers placed a high value on respectability and were generally inclined to be intolerant of deviance, whether social or moral, sexual or criminal. How these aims were translated into action is the principal story this book tries to tell.

There are two further stories embedded in the archive and thus in the book. One is a story of women themselves. We learn something of the girls and women receiving help over the decades and the use they made of it, though not nearly as much as it would be interesting to hear as the archive is rarely told in their voices. Then there are the energetic educated middle-class women who ran the organization, leading purposeful lives in a gradually changing world, from a time when their roles were voluntary and usually subservient to their male counterparts to one in which the doors of public and professional life were gradually opened to them. The third set of women are those who were the paid employees of the organization. Their story is one of the growth and development of social work into an occupation with professional status, performed by workers not merely respected for their personal skills but with the status that results from relevant training and acknowledged expertise.

The third tale to be told is of the gradually changing picture of welfare provision in Cambridge. At the start, in the 1880s, even universal primary education was only ten years old and the Poor Law and the Workhouse were the only safety net for the less fortunate. Supplementing meagre public provision was a host of voluntary agencies attempting to plug the gap. By the end of the life of the 'Care of Girls', the Welfare State had been instituted and the voluntary sector was busy redefining its role in the new circumstances.

The narrative is roughly chronological. Chapter 2 describes how the Association grew out of the Victorian Purity Movement whilst Chapters 3 to 6 continue and enlarge the story of the nineteenth century 'Care of Girls'. Chapter 3 is concerned with the 'dramatis personae: the ladies whose voluntary efforts gave expression to the founders' hopes and plans, their paid workers and the girls and young women they tried to help. Chapters 4 and 5 describe the Victorian Association's work, whilst Chapter 6 looks back at its position as the century draws to a close.

The middle of the book, Chapters 7 to 12, cover the first quarter of the twentieth century, prior to CACG's amalgamation with the Cambridge Shelter. In some senses this was a unified period, with one social worker and one Hon. Secretary dominating the work of the CACG throughout, and less change in the social context of Cambridge than might have been assumed given the crisis of the First World War. However, the ladies of the Association (and their clients) would have seen many changes in their daily life over that time and have perceived solid progress in many of the causes that they espoused. Much, though not all, of the material in Chapters 7 to 11 continues the story in the period leading up to the First World War, with a new Edwardian emphasis on health and disability both physical and mental singled out for a chapter of its own, whilst Chapter 12 looks at the impact of the War and how CACG fared in the post-war world.

The remaining chapters are concerned with the work of the combined 'Associations' until the need for a further change of name was felt in the mid-50s, to once more meet changing times. The amalgamation in 1927 led gradually to a specialization in helping women with unwanted pregnancies. This need increased during the Second World War, resulting in local authority financial support for maternity work and, eventually, approval of the Association as an adoption agency. Another important strand of work during the 1920s to 1940s was with young female offenders through the Probation Service, though this was eventually terminated. Within the continuing chronological framework, these aspects of the Association's work are each given chapters of their own.

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