Mary Jane Coggeshall

Is Philanthropy a Science or a Fad - undated

Mary Jane Coggeshall
December 31, 1969
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Your committee for the program has given to me what seems an undebatable question, "Is Philanthropy a science or a fad?" What is Philanthropy? It is a readiness to love and do good to others. What is a fad? It is a trifling pursuit. Now, is a readiness to love and do good to others a trifling pursuit? It is doubtless owing to the failure of many who would bless their kind to properly present the truths they possess that the idea has obtained that Philanthropy is a fad.

But has it become so fashionable to do good that we have begun to counterfeit it? If this be true, then society has taken a long step towards popularizing the Sermon on the Mount. But we apprehend that greed masquerading under the guise of Philanthropy has done much to bring the name into disrepute; the experiment at Pullman serves to illustrate this fact. But that true Philanthropy can be a trifling pursuit argues a degree of misapprehension of which we cannot suspect Unity Club; for of all clubs with which we are acquainted, then would it have least reason to exist. Would anyone presume to say that the application of the Golden Rule is a fad?

But has Philanthropy yet become a science? We believe it is working towards it. Of all the organizations formed to benefit mankind, all, or none, may have the "scientific spirit," which means open to truth on every side, but they have certainly been open to the one truth that our neighbor needs help.

In the world of science, men have their specialties: Fulton in the application of steam; Morse in telegraphy; Edison in electricity, etc., but it is all science. In our present state of development, it seems necessary for Philanthropy to follow the same law. Those who are in earnest must, as it appears to us, concentrate upon their specialty. To get the full force of the current of a river, we must narrow the channel. This may not be our ideal theory of Philanthropy but so far the world seems to demand just this kind of work.

Miss Ida Wells, the brilliant young colored woman who recently visited our city is a fine specimen of Philanthropy concentrated. She has little time to see, hear or sympathize with any other phase of the world's wrongs save those of southern black men - and we are proud of the modern Joan of Arc. A remarkable illustration of this idea is the life work of Rev. D.L. Moody. Prof. Drummond says no other man has done so much directly in the way of uniting man to God, and man with man. In England, Scotland and Ireland, churches, halls and institutions have sprung up in his track. The two great schools at Northfield, Massachusetts and the Bible Institute in Chicago are but a part of his work here; but, says Prof. Drummond, "No other man has kept himself so aloof from fads, isms or special reforms, or from attacking specific sins." Narrow, Rev. Moody certainly is, and perhaps no other man so tries the patience of reformers; but his work is great in results. That he does not attack specific sins is not evidence that specific sins should not be attacked. Quite another man is Dr. Parkhurst, who looks at truth from another side and brings his powerful batteries to pray upon specific sins.

The fiery William Lloyd Garrison, stirring the benumbed spirit of the North to the horrors of slavery; Miss Willard, leading her hosts against the rum power; Miss Anthony and her battalions urging the political freedom of women; these with the specialists in science are among the great forces which are bringing the moral and material world up to a higher level. So let us be patient with the specialists. We are weary of hearing it said, "I do not like such and such people. They are so 'one ideal."' Over and over have we been driven to the conclusion that it is better to have even one idea worth living for, than not to have any. Perhaps you are thinking that, "The party that I belong to is the party that I'm singing this song to: but no man lives unto himself," and "He who puts any part of God's machinery in gear for mankind has the Almighty to turn the wheel."

One of the most hopeful signs of present day efforts and to which the wholesale political corruption should not blind our eyes is the tendency to make Philanthropy practical in the business life of the world. In England where success in municipal government is much greater than in this country, we notice in the city of Manchester where 6,000 persons are in the employ of the city, that the frequency of men dying and leaving their families in want has led the City Corporation to ask Parliament to enact a law by which it is compulsory for employees of the city to take out an insurance policy. Now all the employees receiving not less than $7.50 per week are required to contribute 3.75 percent of their wages; the Corporation contributing the balance. On reaching the age of 65, or becoming incapacitated, the holder is entitled to receive the amount invested plus 4 percent compound interest. In the event of death, it goes, of course, to his family.

In Vienna, the experiment of Josef Hahns (?) with "Peoples Kitchens" where 20,000 people are fed every day, and where a dinner for school children may be had for two cents apiece has proved a commercial success. Think how the great soul of Gen. Booth has wrestled with the problem of how to convert Philanthropy into a science.

Unity Club has undertaken the high mission of bringing into the practical working of a church Club the liberal spirit which the church stands for. We how base our faith upon the order of naïve rather than upon its miraculous disturbance, stand for the task of keeping ourselves open to truth on every side, which is the only scientific spirit, and are in readiness to love and help one another, which is Philanthropy.

It is said the followers of Mohammed are the only enthusiasts who have united the spirit of toleration with zeal for making proselytes. Let us not mistake or fall short of our high endeavor. Sisterly forbearance, combined with sisterly helpfulness, is a double cord to bind us together. It is said to be difficult to help those upon our own plane from lack of vantage ground. Well, the old accepted lines of helpfulness may not be ours to follow. We may not need to lift each other up or lead each other's thought. Possibly, the sweetest service my friend can render me is simply to walk firmly by my side, she thinking her thoughts, I thinking mine, but with our faces set always towards the delectable mountains.

Henry Ward Beecher said, "It has been the rule of my life to work with any man of good morals, on all lines in which we agree, though in a hundred others, we disagree. I work with any man whose face is as if he would go to Jerusalem." There is no time for idling; for if "an angel's wing would droop if long at rest," much more would Unity Club degenerate, for we are not angels. In a world where so many wrongs are to be righted, we dare not spend all our days even in selfculture, for if we wait for all equipment, our ships may have passed in the night.

He who stood before a block of marble and saw an angel imprisoned therein and with faithful hand set it free, we call a great sculptor: but if we seek to discover the image of God in those about us, we are chiseling with the tools of the Infinite. Prof. Huxley says, "If there is no hope of a large improvement of the condition of the greater part of the human family, he would hail the advent of some kindly comet to sweep it all away." May Unity Club be forgiven for spending even a little time in discussing the question whether to do good to our neighbor is a fad.

In ancient times, men organized in war to work out blessings for the few - while today, we organize in peace to work out blessings for the many; and since women grace the civilization of all lands, what responsibility rests upon us collectively, upon us individually, upon us at the very hour. Science, which is the voice of God talking to us along the lines of natural law, says that the thirst of a daisy may change the depth of the Atlantic, so what we do and think today will somehow affect our neighbors in the Twentieth Century. It is well that we study household sanitation and all the appliances that may enable us to better protect our loved ones; but we propose to go farther. It may be said that a single sanitary law has accomplished more than all the achievements of private Philanthropy in a generation; and are not the altars of private Philanthropy continually wet with the tears of women? We have been the world's moral scavenger long enough. It is well to heal the bruises made by sin, but to prevent these bruises is far better.

Women are held responsible for much of the evil that exists, they always have, ever since Adam played the sneak in the garden, and they are responsible for much, especially for this that they do not claim the power to do good that should be theirs. Can you tell me what it is that makes good homes? What makes a church an influence for good, and makes private Philanthropy a blessing? Whatever this is, if it stops short of reaching the business life; if it does not take hold of the gambling table, the brothel and the saloon, then there is evidence that something is wrong. The power of one half the people stops short at a given point; it is not in touch with all the springs of its environment.

We sometimes complain that good laws are not enforced. Why are they not enforced? Because there are not enough people among those who are allowed to touch the levers - who want them enforced. Bishop Vincent, who has recently been in our city, in speaking publicly of the good things to be in the 20th Century, hoped that "aldermen will be honest and women will be contented." We believe nothing shows to us more clearly that the spirit of God is moving upon the hearts of his handmaidens than the fact that there exists this divine discontent.

Shall we who are mothers try to emulate the foolish virgins? In the great day that is coming, when the question will confront each one of us: "Where are the lambs committed to thy care in the wilderness of this world? We shall answer. Lord, it was not for me to follow them out upon the mountains, or into the valleys of temptation. It would have draggled my garments and made me displeasing to the world. So I staid and wrought in the tent. I pray thee excuse me, but the Angel with averted face passes her by."

George McDonald says, "No indulgence of passion destroys the spiritual nature so much as respectable selfishness." Let each one of us work along the line which to her seems to lead most directly towards this end of universal good.

One summer a few years ago, we took a stroll upon the banks of the dirty pool of partisan politics. We lingered long enough to meet a group of earnest spirits of whom Hamlin Garland was one of the coterie; and this is the thought he through in: "This great country is like an orange cut crosswise, each section leading to the center of things which is universal good. In each section are men at searching for the general good. At the circumference, we seem to be working alone, but as we approach the center, we begin to hear the sound of the pick axe of our neighbor working in his section, and we discover a great army coming in upon different lines."

In an age yet to be, and under a richer endowment of head and heart than now obtains, there may be men and women who can throw themselves with energy into every line of effort which leads upward, but not now. This Club seeks unity in diversity, and may it prove a fountain of intellectual and moral ideas, and not merely a channel through which the common stream runs.

Transcription from Ferris, J. N. (2017). Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette and Her Speeches. Milton, IN: Kids at Heart Publishing LLC.