The Friendly Circle, one of Philadelphia's first charitable organizations, was founded by Anne Parrish and 23 other Quaker women in 1795 to supply employment to women after the ravages of the yellow fever outbreak. When Parrish's parents fell victim to the fever, she vowed that if they recovered she would dedicate the rest of her life to philanthropy. They did recuperate, and she kept her word.

The society renamed itself the Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor in 1811 and incorporated in 1815. One year later, the organization bought a building on Fourth Street just below Market and opened the House of Industry, employing poor women as spinners and sewers and hiring older women in an early day-care center. In 1849, the society moved to 112 N. Seventh St.

The women at the House of Industry worked eight hours a day, five days a week, during the winter, creating handmade garments and quilts. Some of these items were sold directly at the House, while others were made to order. Women were provided with meals, day care for their children, shoes, and daily Bible readings by a House manager.

The House of Industry celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1895. After World War I, it joined with several other settlement homes to form the Philadelphia Welfare Federation.