A Bourgeois Duty: Philanthropy, 1896-1919
Christmas tree, soup kitchen in church basement(?), Montreal, QC, about 1930
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1930, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
12 x 17 cm
Purchase from Napoleon Antiques
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Architecture (8646) , Photograph (77678) , religious (1331)
Keys to History
A Poor-Relief Network
In older Canadian cities like Montreal relief efforts were undertaken by private groups, since neither Quebec nor Ontario had adopted the British poor laws. The Catholic Church oversaw services for Catholics, while Protestant churches, national societies and private charities combined their efforts to provide relief for Protestants. Providing charitable aid had long been a Christian tradition, and much private philanthropy was channelled through the church and its poor fund. Protestant churches supplied pensions to elderly parishioners, and ladies' groups made clothing and blankets to distribute to the needy in the winter months along with fuel and grocery tickets. Over time churches began to open soup kitchens or meal services rather than deliver aid. Many churches also did active outreach work in poor areas, building missions that included Sunday schools, sewing rooms, soup kitchens and sometimes refuges. In Protestant Montreal, however, the main network of charities and large outdoor relief depots was built up by lay groups, not by the church.
The soup kitchen was considered a perfect form of charity: it met people's need for food yet was inexpensive and easy to organise.
Many churches organised some form of relief like soup kitchens for the parish poor over the winter months.
The photograph dates from December 1930 but illustrates a common situation where soup kitchens and other services for the poor were found in church basements.
Church undertakings like this were usually organised by volunteers from the Ladies' Guild or some other church association, such as a poor committee.