Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts.

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$riii0h Commission, Chiracs (Exhibition, 1893.










" So womanlie^ so benigne, and so meeke." CHAUCER.







The Report of Philanthropic Work, pro-
moted or originated by Englishwomen, which it was
the desire of your Royal Highness that I should
prepare, is now completed. The difficulty of even
an approximately just record of this work will be by
no one better understood than by yourself, familiar
as your Royal Highness is, not only with its more
salient evidences, but with those undercurrents, which,
whether through giving or receiving, sweeten and
refresh the daily life of nearly every Englishwoman.
In reflecting over the methods within my reach in
order to carry into effect your behest, two only seemed
to offer any feasible means of obtaining reliable in-
formation upon a subject embracing, necessarily,
besides home organizations, all those missionary,
religious, or social efforts undertaken, often under
difficult surroundings, by Englishwomen for the
benefit of distant and alien races, or on behalf of
their own kith and kin settled in foreign countries.

( vi )

One method was to collect all the regular pub-
lished reports of Societies, Institutions, etc., and to
collate these into a summary, together with any
printed matter relating to charitable effort which I
could obtain from other sources. This plan, though
affording the advantages of statistical form and
economic detail, appeared to lack that vitalizing
touch which is given by individuality, and which is
essential to a full understanding of personal work.
It also had, in addition, the disadvantage of excluding
all record of the gentle homely lives which are so
constantly found actively employed in charity through-
out this country, and whose quiet work diffuses sun-
shine in many an unknown circle.

The second method was the one I adopted,
namely, to seek for information direct from individuals
from the heads of all religious communities, the
presidents or active promoters of philanthropic or
social organizations, both large and small, and from
women engaged, either singly or in combination with
others, in charitable work and ask from them (a re-
quest most willingly and kindly responded to) a per-
sonally written report of women's work within their
cognizance. This latter plan secured many of the
advantages of the former; for, of course, it did not
preclude statistics or economic details, whilst it gained
the charm of personal narrative to which I have
alluded. It also gave an opportunity of obtaining
illustrations of the work in which many were engaged,

( vii )

which will somewhat relieve the monotony of mere
paper records. A list of these will accompany the
Report, and they will be exhibited in the space
assigned me in the Women's Building at Chicago.

I am desirous here to record my indebtedness to
the small Committee of Ladies who have been work-
ing with me in the general organization requisite to
set on foot all these inquiries. Possessed of an
intimate knowledge of philanthropic work, and freely
giving a large amount of time and labour, they have
rendered me invaluable assistance in the production
of this Report, which I hope will in some measure
carry out your Royal Highness's wishes.

It only remains for me to thank your Royal
Highness in the name of the women-workers of
Great Britain (who will perhaps in this respect permit
me to represent them) for having taken the lead in
bringing the matters herein contained to the know-
ledge of their kinsfolk across the seas on the great
occasion of the Chicago Exhibition, which, I trust,
among many other noble results, will join not only
two, but all nations of the world in a common bond
of sympathy with Women's Philanthropic Work.
I remain, with the greatest respect,


Your Royal Highness's most dutiful and obedient



SINCE the first inauguration of International Exhibitions in
1851 by the Queen and Prince Consort, in London, none will
rank among the nations of the world as more remarkable
than that which is to be opened in Chicago this year, and
which will give to 1893 a significant and unique place in the
history of the material and social progress of the world. The
former the material has been perhaps the main feature in
previous Exhibitions. The latter the social which might
almost, in the far-reaching scope here given to it, be called
the moral part of the Exhibition, receives at Chicago a
prominent and peculiar consideration.

Moreover, under this second head, the department of
Women's Work takes its place for the first time, and both on
that account, and by reason of the special regard given to
Philanthropy, much of the deeper and more lasting interest
excited by this great Exhibition, will, I think, gather round
the Section for which this Report has been prepared. It is
fitting that the close of the nineteenth century should focus
and illustrate in a definite form the share which women have
taken in its development, of which, in my humble judgment,
the truest and noblest, because the most natural, part, is to
be found in philanthropic work.

The scheme of this Section has been so generally made
known, that it is only necessary formally to record in the
case of Great Britain, that, having been invited by the
Royal Commission to act on its Ladies' Committee, I was
further requested by her Royal Highness the Princess


x Preface.

Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, President of the Committee,
to make a Report of Philanthropic Work promoted or
originated by Englishwomen.

It appears to me, however, due to the readers of the
Report that they should receive a short explanation of the
method pursued for obtaining accurate information, as well
as of the sources from which it was derived.

The Report consists of two portions, the one this volume
printed and published for general circulation, the other a
series of type-written reports, bound up in five volumes,
which will remain in the Section for reference and perusal.
Briefly, it may be stated that these latter volumes form the
basis of the Report, as they contain the whole body of in-
formation in the form in which it has been derived directly
from authoritative sources. The printed volume embodies
and deals with the information thus obtained in a series of
papers intended for the Congress, which have been written
by ladies whose ability and experience have enabled them
not only to deal with the many important questions under
notice, but to supplement the material contained in the typed
reports with additional information derived from personal

To obtain the typed reports, a letter, a copy of which
will be found at the end of this volume, was addressed not
only to the heads of all Religious Communions, and of all
the principal Philanthropic, Social, and Charitable Institu-
tions, but also to those who were known to be working
either in smaller bodies, or even single-handed, for kindred
objects. It was requested that information of women's
work should be supplied, and that it should be given not by
means of printed reports, but in written papers personally
signed. This request was most kindly responded to, and the
information thus procured will be found in the typed volumes.

In this connection I desire to express my deep sense
of obligation to those who have supplied this valuable
material. My acknowledgments are especially due to the
Bishops and other heads of religious bodies. With respect to
these and to many other contributors, it is not difficult for me
to thank them for their ready response to my request ; but
it is not so easy justly to measure the sacrifice of time taken

Preface. xi

from busy lives, and the labour required to supply the details,
which have made it possible for me to draw together the
varied but harmonious chords of energy, and to combine the
distinct but confluent channels of benefit, so as to tell some-
thing of the story of Women's Work in England. These
reports, broadly speaking, have been received from the
following sources :

(I.) Reports of the Churches of England, Ireland, and
Scotland ; the Moravian Church ; the Presbyterian Church
of Scotland ; the Roman Catholic Church ; Congregational
organizations ; Report of the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish
Communion ; the Society of Friends : these are the reports
of the largest English philanthropic associations, whose
branches are scattered throughout the world.

(II.) Reports from charitable or social bodies whose work
is to be found in London or the great towns.

(III.) Individual efforts for philanthropic objects. This
section will be found to embrace many notable examples of
individual energy, thoughtfulness, and kindness.

Having obtained this large body of information in the
manner described, the somewhat difficult question arose how
best to present it to the public in a form in which its
salient features could be most easily grasped, and its matter
systematically grouped, while, at the same time, its wide
scope should be brought under general observation. It was
open to me either to edit and publish the original matter as
it stood, or to redistribute and then summarize it, on some
approved plan of analysis and classification. The first
method would, I fear, have left the public somewhat be-
wildered by a mass of undigested matter ; to the latter, which
promised some advantages, there lay the serious objection,
that much of the directness, freshness, and originality to
which I have already referred, would have been converted
more or less into the dry husks and formality of an official
report. I have, therefore, rejected both of these methods ;
but, in order that the readers of this book should have some
idea of the extent and variety of the material afforded by
the typed reports, I have added, in the form of an Appendix,
a brief summary of the series, together with some observa-
tions of my own suggested by their perusal.

xii Preface.

It appeared to me that in the process of classification into
subjects, the original contributions should be touched by
not only qualified and experienced, but sympathetic hands.
The typed reports were therefore arranged in groups, and,
with few exceptions, each of these was submitted to some
lady possessing special knowledge of the particular subject,
and personal experience of the work falling under it, who
would be able to extract the virtue, and as far as possible
embody the information, contained in the reports, in the form
of a paper written on a subject long thought over and studied
by the writer.

To these ladies, the authoresses of the Congress Papers,
I offer my warmest acknowledgments for the great service
they have rendered to their country, whose philanthropic
work will be under review at Chicago ; to the cause of
philanthropy, which owes so much to the aid of the publicist ;
and lastly, if I may mention it, to myself, of whose responsi-
bility in this important work they have thus generously
undertaken so large a share.

The Sections had necessarily to be large, and the classi-
fication elastic ; for the subjects, in spite of the endeavour to
give a solidarity to each, necessarily overlap one another,
as, indeed, most of the associations, societies, and charities,
do in actual life, while each retains its definite character.
Whatever cross divisions may be apparent in the work-
ing of the units of a group, or of the groups in relation
to one another, there is one feature which cannot but be
recognized the unity of feeling and of purpose which per-
vades all these philanthropic efforts, directed to the amelio-
ration, in the highest sense of the word, of the lives of our
fellow-beings. Union in effecting the purpose may or may
not be found ; but unity and piety of purpose pervade the
whole. And if an exact incidence of benefit from philan-
thropic effort cannot be arrived at in the treatment of phases
of need, still less is it possible to classify it by periods or ages
of life. It is a law of nature. As the trees and flowers grow
imperceptibly, so in human life infancy gently unfolds child-
hood, and the child blossoms into the girl, and girlhood passes
into responsible womanhood. Sharp distinctions between
good and evil may be more or less essential in practice ; each

Preface. xiii

association for the welfare of these different periods may have
its own rules and management But in a comprehensive view
all down the lines mapped out for philanthropic effort, from
the cradle to the grave, this overlapping of periods and these
irregular edges projecting into one another's territory are
lost to sight, or at least become insignificant in view of the
common philanthropic purpose which pervades the whole.
Collectively, as I have said, these may in their treatment
overlap, but therein they bear all the truer likeness to the
work they describe.

The reports furnished from England and Scotland, and
most conspicuously from Ireland, which deal with endeavours
to improve the condition and cheer the toils of daily life,
are rendered more interesting by the fact that they are
illustrated by a collection of samples of the objects made,
and the work done, which will be found in the Section of the
Woman's Building allotted to this subject, where a special
catalogue of the Section can be obtained. These material
objects albeit of trifling value tell many a story, in lan-
guage more eloquent than words, of how single individuals,
setting to work with heart and mind, and pursuing the effort
with courage and tact, can conquer the obstacles presented
by an isolated and resourceless district, by an ignorant and
untrained population, by an apathy and idleness arising
mainly from the want of hopeful inspiration and skilled
guidance. They are so many proofs, these little pieces of
handiwork, of the industry and cleverness which lie buried
in the poorest classes, and the effective materialization of
which is one of the best and most reproductive objects to
which philanthropic effort can be applied. For the work
required in the production does not end with the object
produced ; and the reward is not to be measured by the little
wage given in return, in itself often an appreciable help to
the scanty resources of a struggling family. It carries on
into the future ; it implies that the hand which hitherto was
idle has been trained to execute, and the eye to select and
discriminate. The mind as well as the body has learnt the
habit of work, the whole morale of the individual is braced
and trained. And it should be remembered that these simple
industrial productions shown in this Section, apart from, or

xiv Preface.

rather coincident with, the material benefit, have done much
to create that spirit of confidence, self-reliance, and inde-
pendence, without which no community can legitimately take
its place amongst a free people.

In reviewing the wide array of benevolent enterprise pre-
sented by the reports, it is impossible not to be deeply
impressed by the vast number and variety of the under-
takings described. They seem to reach into the farthest
limits, and to effect a just incidence of philanthropy over all
the area of human need. So great have been the changes
in the conditions of the life and work of the people of
England during the last seventy years, that the new forms
and channels through which ameliorating efforts reach them
would almost seem to justify the common impression that
care for the poor and suffering springs from new impulses
of the present century. But that idea cannot be held with
justice to those who have gone before us, or without forget-
ting that the same kindly feelings that work to such noble
effect in the Englishwoman of to-day animated the English-
women of yesterday. It is certain that they did. The only
difference is that duty and kindliness had then to work
under very different conditions, in very different circum-
stances, from those that prevail now ; and those circum-
stances and conditions being bygone and forgotten, the good
that was done in them is in danger of being forgotten too.
Some of the more important labours of philanthropy would
have been impossible at any point of time other than that
at which they were accomplished that is to say, in compara-
tively recent years ; but even of these it may be said, in most
cases, that they are but the continuation and development,
under altered and more effective conditions, of a benevolence
that deserves to be called historical.

To obtain a complete view of the matter, many things
have to be considered ; but none, I think, with more attention
than the greater domesticity of country life when rural Eng-
land was a larger and more influential England than it has
since become in comparison with the towns. Within a com-
paratively recent period,. London was not invariably the main,
nor is it now the only governing, centre of opinion and social

Preface. xv

life. The country life and thought was still a great factor
in all that concerned the nation. Since the end of the Great
War, and up to about sixty years ago, country life in England
had changed but little ; and it is easy to trace the origin of
many a great work of charity in the ordinary domestic habi-
tudes of the manor house, or in those of the more " stately
homes of England," to use the words of a gifted woman and
popular writer now no more amongst us. In their own way,
and according to the conditions and demands of the time,
these houses fulfilled many of the charitable duties which are
as often as not called Missions in our own day. Standing
in the midst of properties which in pre-railway times were
more often like distinct little settlements, moved by a con-
scious sense of responsibility, influencing in turn their villages
and groups of farms, they formed centres of thought and
consideration for all within a certain area about them ; dis-
pensing the kindnesses that are now recognized under the
broad word Philanthropy. The ladies who presided over
these homes lived under the influence of traditional duties,
which they accepted as part of their inheritance, but which
were essentially the same as those now undertaken by their
descendants in a much wider field and affecting far greater
numbers of their fellow-creatures.

It will illustrate my meaning to take the bringing up and
training of young girls, which is as important to the social
welfare of the nation as anything that can be named. The
manor-house, the " great house,'* or whatever it should be
called, was in effect a training school for young servants.
Taken from the village or the farmstead, they were variously
employed in the kitchen, the laundry, and the dairy ; they
were instructed in needlework as well as practised in all
manner of domestic duties ; and this training, carried on
under many obvious advantages, was either superintended
by the mistress or by an experienced housekeeper, who
answered to the Matron in our present institutions, without
being at all behind her in efficiency and character. Here,
too, many a growing lad found instructive employment under
the gardeners, or in the carpenter's shop or the smithy
belonging to the house. The children of dependents and
poor neighbours were taught respect for religion, attended

xvi Preface.

the same church, participated in the same rites, and shared
the simple piety of those over them ; finally resting in the
old churchyard, where their progenitors, rich and poor, had
been laid before them. Social and domestic habits, and even
manners a small but not unimportant matter were not
neglected. The kitchens of such houses were no inapt
representatives of our soup kitchens, or the free dinners
and breakfasts, and the dinners for sick persons, which now
supplement those institutions. In severe winters, or when
times were hard, the manor-house kitchen was a sure refuge
from distress. Of course there were exceptionally bad times
then as now to increase the number of the unemployed ; on
those occasions pains were taken to find " odd jobs " about
the estate, and works were begun which there was no crying
need for. And what was true of the greater houses was true
in all these particulars of the better sort of farmsteads ; of
course with a difference, but more a difference of the means
of living on a helpful domestic system than of disposition
or habit. In the well-to-do farmhouse it was as easy to
learn " the art of making home happy " as in any of the
institutions for which there is now so much need in our
crowded towns with their factory life and education. What
we now know as Women's Technical Arts such as needle-
work, cookery, dairy-management, cheese-making, did more
than enter into the education of the poorer girls of that day ;
they formed it. Subjects of instruction were familiar which
are now so little considered that some of our most anxious
inquirers fear they may die out altogether ; a prospect which
cannot be separated from the question of women's wages and
the comfort of poor homes. Nor was the stir of excitement
wanting to country life. The amusements were eagerly
taken up, and both shared and promoted by gentlefolk.
Sixty years ago, when public questions of enormous interest
were engrossing men's minds, there was certainly no lack of
political animation in the provinces, where discussion was
often carried on during the summer and winter months upon
subjects that afterwards came into prominence in London.
The old-fashioned libraries which were always to be found in
the greater country houses quietly fostered tastes and
opinions in the minds of boy and girl readers, and were

Preface. xvii

thus silently moulding the opinions and history of the
future. The country bookseller was a much more important
person, and far more bookish, than his successor ; and the
history of Norwich illustrates the way in which provincial
centres of independent taste and intellectual activity could
exist, and did exist, to make their influence felt far beyond
the radius of a country town. The education of women, in
the scholastic meaning of the phrase, was perhaps inferior
to that which the present generation enjoys, but in the wider
sense of education it may be doubtful whether it was so.
And certainly it is a mistake to suppose that the better-
educated women were less instructed than their brothers.
Besides, whether for men or women, good education is not
all scholastic ; and more was learnt in the old country homes
of England than most remember, or than many seem willing
to believe. From such a home came " the Lady with the
Lamp," the name by which Miss Nightingale was known to
our soldiers in the Crimea ; and by her, as well as by other
women who have stepped from a like seclusion with a similar
devotedness, the lamp has been held by no unsteady hands.

To this hour, and all over the country, there are a thousand
little centres of benevolence which find no record here, nor
indeed anywhere else, if not in the book of the Recording
Angel. The fortunes of the squirearchy have fallen very
much, but the mansion and the manor-house have not given
up the old kindly duties, while in every town, and in every
parish of the greater towns, you may find little coteries of
good women who work together for the poor and helpless
about them without a thought of dignifying their quiet labours
by carrying them on under the name of Society or Associa-
tion. And in the earlier days of which I have been speaking
there was no such scope, no such freedom for the working
of great benevolent associations as there is to-day. The
survey of charitable effort which this report supplies carries
us back over a period of sixty years. Great and swift have
been the changes since 1830, and these, so far as they affect our
subject, where they have enlarged the need of philanthropic
activity, have at the same time extended its means and
multiplied its channels of operation. Especially have these
changes worked in the direction of giving a collective form

xviii Preface.

to efforts which were formerly left to individuals. Till the
mutual intolerance of religious feeling began to soften, and
the barriers of religious disability broke down (and we must
go back just beyond the Thirties for these beginnings),

Online LibraryAngela Georgina Burdett-CouttsWoman's mission; a series of congress papers on the philanthropic work of women, by eminent writers → online text (page 1 of 49)