Philanthropic Discourse in Anglo-American Literature, 1850-1920

Philanthropic Discourse in Anglo-American Literature, 1850-1920

Philanthropic Discourse in Anglo-American Literature, 1850-1920

Philanthropic Discourse in Anglo-American Literature, 1850-1920

Synopsis

From the mid-19th century until the rise of the modern welfare state in the early 20th century, Anglo-American philanthropic giving gained an unprecedented measure of cultural authority as it changed in kind and degree. Civil society took on the responsibility for confronting the adverse effects of industrialism, and transnational discussions of poverty, urbanization, women's work, and sympathy provided a means of understanding and debating social reform. While philanthropic institutions left a transactional record of money and materials, philanthropic discourse yielded a rich corpus of writing that represented, rationalized, and shaped these rapidly industrializing societies, drawing on and informing other modernizing discourses including religion, economics, and social science. Showing the fundamentally transatlantic nature of this discourse from 1850 to 1920, the authors gather a wide variety of literary sources that crossed national and colonial borders within the Anglo-American range of influence. Through manifestos, fundraising tracts, novels, letters, and pamphlets, they piece together the intellectual world where philanthropists reasoned through their efforts and redefined the public sector.

Excerpt

When peggy bartels was awoken by the phone at 4 a.m., she assumed it was a relative calling from Ghana. She was right. It was her cousin calling to announce that her uncle had passed away and that she had been selected to take his place as King of Otuam, a coastal African Fante village of approximately seven thousand people. Groggy and disbelieving, she mulled over the unsettling news as she prepared for her day’s work as a secretary at the Ghanaian embassy in Washington, dc. How could she, a naturalized us citizen employed in dc, possibly function as king of a village in Ghana?

In King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village, Bartels and her coauthor, Eleanor Herman, recount her eventful first few years as King of Otuam. Holding down her job at the embassy, Bartels kept in daily contact with her advisers in Otuam, learning her duties and attempting to circumvent those who hoped to benefit from her absence. When she took a prolonged vacation leave for her “enstoolment” (coronation) and resided in Otuam for several weeks, she realized that the competing members of her council were banking on her residence in the United States and her submission to male authority in order for them to continue embezzling village funds and wielding local power unconscionably. She would have none of that. the ensuing narrative is a study in maneuvering the politics of local governance, as she battled with her cunning council members, worked within a mix of ancestral and postcolonial government systems, and eventually took the first steps toward bringing clean water, education, and modern health care to her village.

Bartels’s book is part autobiography, part spiritual memoir, and part history of the Fante people and customs. At times, it is delightfully humorous. And, perhaps more importantly, it is a fundraising tool. Overt mention of this aspect of the book is tucked away in the last few pages of her narrative, where Bartels recounts the efforts of Pastor Be Louis Colleton and the congregation of the Shiloh Baptist Church in Maryland, who raised funds to provide a well for the village and laid plans to provide a school. She outlines the immense impact these efforts . . .

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