Toy drives are a beloved feature of the holiday season, and have been for over a century. In New York City, women have long been at the center of efforts to care for poor and orphaned children. In 1806, Elizabeth Hamilton (yes, that Eliza) was one of the founders of the Orphan Asylum Society of the City of New York. At the time, there were no options for desperate children besides brutal workhouses. Nearly a century later, Victoria Earle Matthews and Lillian Wald opened settlement houses in African American and immigrant communities. Their efforts included offering educational programs and creating some of the first playgrounds in New York.

Portraits of Children by Publisher’s Photo Service, circa 1926. Children’s Aid Society Collection.

These lovely photographs, from the N-YHS Children’s Aid Society collection, show children who received toys through the Society’s toy drives in the 1920s. The Center for Women’s History team encourages our readers to support a local toy or coat drive this holiday season.

Portraits of Children by Publisher’s Photo Service, circa 1926. Children’s Aid Society Collection.

Portraits of Children by Publisher’s Photo Service, circa 1926. Children’s Aid Society Collection.

– Sarah Gordon, Center for Women’s History

This post is part of our new series, “Women at the Center,” written and edited by the staff of the Center for Women’s History. Look for new posts every Tuesday! #womenatthecenter

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