>A few days ago, as I walked home from Harlem, I passed a Gothic-looking building on Amsterdam between 104th and 103rd St. I knew it was the New York branch of American Youth Hostels, but noticed for the first time a little sign on a porch indicating the building's historic value. I climbed the stairs to get closer. I nearly fell down laughing when I read the header, "Association Residence for Respectable Aged Indigent Females." Wow, I would never be allowed in there! I thought.

The New York Historical Society explains that the organization:

Started in the fall of 1813 as a small association of women, the Society for the Relief of Indigent Respectable Females was formally established on February 14, 1814 in New York City. Intending to provide charity for a class of society they felt was neglected, the Society raised money largely through private donations to supply gifts of clothing, small stoves, and food for elderly women living in poverty. The Society was created out of religious obligation to a Christian ethic and continued to remain very close to the Christian faith throughout its history.

The sign on the building, though, specified that it was founded to help widows of soldiers felled in the American Revolution and War of 1812.

Setting aside the qualifications of widowhood, elderliness, and Christianity, the building would not have taken me because I have lots of opinions and voice them. It seems that respectable women are still not supposed to do that. Oh well.

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