The Ladies' Union Aid Society was formed in Norwalk in 1877 to provide relief to less fortunate people and to those who found themselves in an emergency situation. This Society is considered to be the direct ancestor of our present United Fund.
I had found information on the origins of the Aid Society and believed at the time that it might have been the first such organized group in Norwalk. Of course I was aware of earlier informal efforts, especially those of the Mothers In Israel in the early and middle 19th century. Every community had Mothers In Israel. They were women who at a moment's notice would go to care for a sick person, soothe the dying and prepare the dead for burial. A happy side to their avocation was that they often helped deliver new babies. This was in the time when all such events took place at home. There were no hospitals, no extended care facilities and no compensation for the duties described.
Just as soon as I was comfortable in considering the organized aid of 1877, I found that in 1850 an earlier aid group was formed. It does not appear to have lasted very many years, however. The Village Relief Society was formed in December of 1850 for two main purposes: 1. To provide for the personal wants of the indigent sick; and 2. To clothe, or assist in clothing, the children of parents in low circumstances, in a suitable and comfortable manner to attend our public schools.
The present graded school system began operating in 1850 and there must have been a number of families who could not afford to clothe and equip their children for school. Newspaper account show that garments were sewn at regular meetings by the ladies. More than 200 were available for the sick each winter besides dresses, aprons, sack coats, pantaloons, shoes and stockings. The Relief Society also raised money to purchase slates and school books for students.