Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Orphanages and Orphans

Sarah Ralston (1766-1820)

A black and white image of Sarah Clarkson Ralston.

Sarah Clarkson Ralston was the eighth child of Matthew Clarkson, mayor of Philadelphia from 1792 to 1796. She established the Orphan Society of Philadelphia and created the Indigent Widows and Single Women’s Society in 1817. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Sarah Clarkson Ralston, daughter of one-term Philadelphia mayor Matthew Clarkson (1792-96), married Robert Ralston in 1785. They were philanthropists and helped establish of the Orphan Society of Philadelphia in 1814, along with Rebecca Gratz and Julia Rush. The orphanage intended to provide housing and education for Philadelphia’s poor, white children. After helping to create the Orphan Society of Philadelphia, Ralston created the Indigent Widows and Single Women’s Society in 1817, now known as the Ralston Center.

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