Breaking the Social Stereotypes of the 19th Century French Poor

Two Spheres, One World

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Frederic Ozanam
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Women and Poverty
Living Conditions
Inside the Family
Making Ends   Meet



Pictured above, a young Frederic Ozanam.
Handwritting of Frederic Ozanam's name, date of birth, and death.

As a father and founder of the Societe de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Frederic Ozanam held strong opinions about the nature of people. He was a source for the organization's social question (below). The following is taken from a letter he wrote in 1837 stating his view.
Letter excerpt taken from Lynch
This theme followed Frederic Ozanam throughout his journey as father of Societe de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. He was often fed up with business men, and the wealthy because they often had too much wealth and they often became selfish with it. He was in many ways fed up with some of the poor because they often acted in the same selfish way when it came to money. He proposed a balance between all the societal spheres. It was a kind of early "Robin Hood" philosophy. However, it was not taking from the wealthy and distributing it to the poor it was an equalization of the two spheres.
Ozanam's point was to emphasize the societal and systematic rather than the accidental or the individual causes of poverty. He did however believe that God put people on this earth with everything they needed, including wealth. He viewed poverty as a man-made downfall. He believed God provided man with everything including wealth. Ozanam felt as though the working class was exacerbating their tendencies for debauchery, gambling, and other vices. He viewed these people to have turned away and disappointed God, because God could have never created such poverty and disgusting filth (Lynch). Ozanam felt his job was to show these people that there was more to what they have become.

Frederic Ozanam as an older gentleman.
They [the poor, and even the wealthy] often fit the stereotype that was put upon them by many. Ozanam believed that God sent people into the world with "two primitive fountains... intelligence and will". It was simply the will of the people to become something greater and overcome what they might have slipped into. By doing this, people could live in "harmony" and equality. Ozanam was often found helping the poor and seen talking to the businessmen. He tried to create a harmonious place through his work with the church.
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