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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Things found in books: exhibit 11a - The New York Exchange for Women’s Work.

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Things found in books: exhibit 11a - The New York Exchange for Women’s Work. The Civil War pitted brother against brother with the result being a multitude of War widows. This affected the rich and poor and everyone in between. In New York City many women who were familiar with the high life before the war, found themselves with no husband and no support.

Unable to enter whatever jobs there were for women at the time, it seemed as thought there was no where for them to turn. That was until 2 ladies saw the problem and felt the best solution was an exchange. Exchanges had been around since the 1830s and were a kind of thrift store featuring knitted items and baked goods made by the war widows.

As you can see from the card, a store front on Fifth avenue was probably a guarantee for success. In time, it would be, but not without loans from wealthy providers as a sort of bridge during the lean times. This particular exchange was not unique, there were many others like it around the country. It really succeeded when a restaurant was added making it the place to be seen.

What’s really amazing is that my research revealed that this exchange survived 125 years. It closed in 2003 when the expense of doing business in New York City became cost prohibitive. It’s a shame we don’t read as much as we used to. There is a lot you can learn by opening a book.

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