Lowell, Josephine Shaw

Lowell, Josephine Shaw, 1843–1905, American political reformer, b. Roxbury, Mass. Lowell, brother of Robert Gould Shaw and widow of Colonel Charles Robert Lowell, was a Progressive reformer and civic volunteer in New York City. The deaths of her brother and husband motivated her ambition to improve society. With limited options due to the constraints of gender and class, she got involved in philanthropy, a social arena where she could assume a leadership position without challenging conventional gender roles. Charity offered Lowell an opportunity to participate in the wider political reforms of the Gilded Age. Lowell eventually founded both the New York Charity Organization Society and the Woman's Municipal League of New York City. She was also the first woman appointed to the New York State Board of Charities. Lowell embraced social science and is best known for her advocacy of "scientific charity." She believed that eliminating the causes of poverty was the correct aim of charity and her ultimate goal was to put an end to extreme poverty. An advocate of women's suffrage, she organized women in New York to demand a higher standard of public morality. Later in life, Lowell took an anti-imperialist stance regarding American policy toward the Philippines. Some scholars claim that her anti-imperialism found its roots in abolitionism—the Lowell family was active in the American Anti-Slavery Society. Lowell died on October 12, 1905, in New York City. Her writings included Public Relief and Private Charity (1884) and Industrial Arbitration and Conciliation (1893).

See W. R. Stewart, The Philanthropic Work of Josephine Shaw Lowell (1911); J. Waugh, Unsentimental Reformer: The Life of Josephine Shaw Lowell (1997).

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