The Rutland Corner Foundation (RCF) founded in 1877 is a Boston institution that has its roots in a nineteenth century social service agency. RCF continues because of its leaders’ willingness to reassess the organization’s mission to meet the changing needs of girls and young women.  Begun in 1877 as The Temporary Home for Working Women, the organization was one of many at that time in the United States that aimed to improve the lives of a growing number of people living in poverty in an increasingly industrialized nation.   It was founded primarily by middle- and upper-class women to serve women in need.  In the Victorian era there was a wave of women founding seminaries, hospitals, antislavery and temperance societies and social service agencies to serve women.

The Temporary Home for Working Women was located in a building on Tremont Street and provided a place where “Women desirous of making an honest living, but penniless and friendless, may find shelter and employment until able to secure a permanent position.”  In its first year, the home served over 300 women, a number that rose to 962 by its third year – an indication of the scope of need at the time in a city whose population was 363,000.  While at the Home, women earned their keep by working for the Home either in the laundry or the sewing room as well as doing cooking, cleaning and general housework as a preparation for future employment.

The Home moved several times and in 1886 it settled at the corner of Rutland Street and Shawmut Avenue; at this time, the name changed to the Rutland Corner House.  The name change reflected a need to respond to an increasingly diverse population of women suffering from emotional and interpersonal problems and alcoholism and mental illness; the original work of the Home also continued.

In 1952, the organization’s board decided to focus on the growing population of mentally ill women, and the next year it formed a collaboration with the Boston Psychopathic Hospital.  In 1954, Rutland Corner House opened the first urban halfway house in America.  In 1962, the organization’s location changed again, this time to Beacon Street.   During this period, a strong movement to move the mentally ill out of institutions and into the community was underway.  At this point, the monthly cost to the house to maintain each resident was approximately $1,700, when most of the women were receiving monthly Social Security Disability checks of approximately $300.  With finances pressing, the board reluctantly decided in 1994 to close the program.

After two years of study, the board voted to sell the Beacon Street building and use the proceeds to create the Rutland Corner Foundation and to focus on supporting Boston organizations working to support and empower girls ages 10-15. In 2011, the board voted to expand its guidelines to support programs that support and empower girls and young women ages 11 to 20.  The Rutland Corner Foundation today continues its legacy of women dedicated to fostering a better future for underserved girls and young women in Boston.  The current board of professional women oversees the annual award and distribution of a modest number of grants, all of which are focused on expanding opportunities and horizons for underserved girls and young women in the Greater Boston region.

June 27 2012 09:51 am

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