dole, distribution to the poor, usually of food or money. In medieval times doles were usually from bequests of money or land, and the income was given to charity or distributed to the local poor at funerals. John Leake in 1792 left £1,000 to Trinity Church, New York City, the income of which was to provide wheat loaves to be distributed to the poor every Sunday morning after services. After World War I the term was applied in Great Britain to weekly payments to the unemployed—the noncontributory payees under the out-of-work-donation plan of 1918; the plan was terminated in 1919. The term was then applied to payments made under the National Unemployment Insurance scheme; it has also been applied to payments to the unemployed by the poor-law authorities. In the United States, the word has acquired pejorative implications.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.