Charity and mutual aid
The pillars of English associations
in The English diaspora in North America
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Having established the structures and social and cultural activities of English ethnic associations, Chapter 5 examines in detail the two critical pillars of English ethnic associationalism: charity and mutual aid. It does this through the charity dispensed by St George’s societies, and the collective self-help facilitated in particular by the Sons of England (there are no detailed archives for the OSStG, hence the focus on the SoE). The chapter explores both levels of support and the regulatory framework adopted by the associations to disburse funds. By exploring the aid distributed by St George’s societies, this chapter enables us to examine the level of associational networking between organisations in dispensing charity to all immigrant groups, and the extent to which this gave those organisations a wider civic role. We have located particularly good records for the SoE in Canada and thus explore the workings of this friendly society. Quite unlike the St George’s societies, the SoE built up reserves of members’ funds, which were expended on sickness, unemployment and burial benefits. Ranging across Canada from the Maritimes to British Columbia, and entailing thousands of members in hundreds of lodges, and engaging in the good management of funds and the promulgation of a shared English culture, the Sons add very significantly to our understanding of what it meant to be English in North America.

The English diaspora in North America

Migration, ethnicity and association, 1730s–1950s

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