Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Kathleen McCarthy

Subject Categories

History | Women's Studies


Charity Organization Society; Social work


This project looks at the work of the Charity Organization Society of New York from 1900 until 1919. Using reports, case histories, meeting minutes, and fundraising material, it concentrates on the ways in which the performance of gender intersected with definitions of expertise and access to money in the lives of both the social workers themselves and their clients. It begins with an overview of the Charity Organization Society's evolution from a largely volunteer charity organization focused on the morality of the poor to an organization that would become key to the development of social work as a profession. Then it looks at the monetary compensation given to early social workers and makes connections between ideas regarding masculinity, femininity, expertise, and professionalism to examine their pay. Thirdly, the paper examines two areas in which early social workers claimed expertise -- budgeting and cleanliness -- and explores the ways in which these claims were closely related to the proper performance of gender. Lastly, the paper looks closely at interactions between social workers and their clients, paying close attention to the ways in which the proper performance of gender determined the clients' access to money and the ways in which the clients attempted to resist social workers' attempts to police their lives. Overall, the paper demonstrates that ideas regarding expertise and gender were key to determining access to money for both social workers and their clients.