The Protestant Orphan Society and its social significance in Ireland, 1828–1940

The Protestant Orphan Society became a social bridge that linked together throughout the Church of Ireland the humble poor and the wealthy and the great. This book examines the work of the Protestant Orphan Society in Dublin (DPOS) against the background of over a century of political, religious and social upheaval from Catholic emancipation, the Great Famine, social reforms to Independence. It first identifies the founders and supporters of the DPOS and their motivation for doing so. It asks why the Church of Ireland invested in the children of the church at this time. The book then analyses the Society's development, the grounds for support of private versus public poor relief for Protestant widows and children and stresses the crucial role that women played in the Societies' work. It examines the child welfare system implemented by the DPOS, and the extent to which its policies were forward thinking and child and family centred. The opposing views of the extensive social service carried out by PO Societies and the meaning of the charity for the Church of Ireland laity, particularly women, are explored. The book further examines applicant profiles, widows' reduced circumstances and health, attitudes to children's health, and bereavement and the attendant emotional effects. Using individual case histories the chapter examines applicant case histories which include Sean O'Casey's sister.

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‘With this beautifully crafted and well-researched volume, Cooper has produced a significant contribution to Irish social history. She has unearthed rich and long-neglected archives, meticulously analysing evidence that helps us to understand both the social structure of the Irish Protestant community and the way Evangelicalism affected attitudes to the poor and the organisation of collective self-help.'
Eugenio Biagini, University of Cambridge
Irish Economic and Social History, Vol 43 (1)
2016

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