Yesterday I said that there was no welfare or other social safety net for widowed or abandoned women in the settlement period, but that wasn’t quite true.
In 1855, the Humboldt County Supervisors added a five cent tax for every hundred dollars of property value. These funds would be used to assist the sick and indigent.
People wanting the services of a physician needed to be within four miles of the doctor and prove their need. The Doc was also required to keep a book with the names of the folks he treated and the details.
By 1857, the supervisors added a caveat that anyone claiming need had to petition their supervisor directly for approval.
As a side note, it is interesting that in a community where the local newspaper gleefully reported that local natives were “entirely starved out” , the county paid $170 to A.S. Baldwin to help Lewis Howard, a “man of color”. In August of 1857, the county purchased $12.75 worth of clothing for Mr. Howard and in February of 1858, a coffin.
Over the years, the fund was used to pay for room and board, physician services, druggists, as well as funeral expenses and coffins.
Ironically, today we seem much less willing (or able, depending on your views) to care for our sick and indigent. The New York Times recently reported on California’s budget crisis, and the ensuing cuts to health care and other services for those most in need
While the state’s health insurance program for children, Healthy Families, remains, it was cut by $144 million, meaning thousands of children will probably be on a waiting list for the program ….
In-home services for the elderly and infirm were reduced by several million dollars.
When I talked about the lack of a safety net yesterday, perhaps I should have been referring to now.