Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts.

Woman's mission; a series of congress papers on the philanthropic work of women, by eminent writers online

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unostentatious in its character, is perhaps one of the most
valuable agencies for good in our land, since it seeks to cleanse
the fountain at its spring rather than stem the torrent of evil
when it has grown to full flood. If we may believe the
cynical saying that " Woman sits at the fount of life and

Work in connection with the Church. 123

poisons all its springs," we shall readily see what a power for
good rests with the mothers of England in a persistent
united effort to train their children in the way of righteousness.

This thought of the home life leads naturally to the
school life of the children, and here again we find the women
of England working in concert with the Church. The
parochial machinery would not be complete without the
Sunday school, where the children are gathered week by
week, to be instructed by lady volunteers, and then marshalled
to service in the church itself. Not only are they there kept
profitably employed throughout the holy day, but they learn
lessons which influence their whole lives. The testimony of
prison chaplains, and those who work amongst the fallen and
degraded, is most striking as to the great value and lasting
nature of this very unobtrusive part of women's work.

But sickness may enter the home, and here again woman
finds her mission. The district visitor first learns the trouble,
she carries the news to the clergyman, and obtains such relief
as the Church can afford, either by gifts of money, coal, beef-
tea, blankets, or the assistance of a trained nurse, belonging
either to the parish or the Rural Nursing Association. It is
increasingly general for each parish, or for a combination of
small neighbouring parishes, to support a district nurse, and
these devoted women well deserve a notice here. Many of
them fulfil the double office of Bible woman or Evangelist,
and nurse (the Church Army trains and supplies such), and
it has been found that women can often obtain an entry and
an influence where the clergyman fails. The fact that some
earn their living in such work need not rob them of their due
meed of honour, for " the labourer is worthy of his hire."

Besides these more constant forms of parochial work,
there comes now and again a need of money for some special
object, the church fabric, the schools, a new mission-room,
for the relief of the poor in very severe winters, for our
soldiers in time of war ; and it is through women the help
will be obtained. Thousands of penny and even halfpenny
dinners are prepared every winter for the relief of starving
children, whilst hundreds of flannel garments were made by
ladies for the use of our soldiers in the late war in the
Soudan. Women are excellent and most successful beggars,

124 Woman s Mission.

and such ways of raising money as sales of work, bazaars,
etc., naturally belong to their department of life. As money-
raisers there is scarcely a branch of Church work from
which they are excluded ; whilst who shall tell of the
thousands of private benevolences carried on by Church-
women ? One will at her own cost support a convalescent
home for a parish in which she is interested ; another will
erect and endow almshouses ; another make substantial dona-
tions towards the parochial charitable funds, or continue
small yearly pensions to special cases. All these, and such
as these, must remain for ever unchronicled, and unestimatcd,
amongst the work of English Churchwomen.

In the decoration of our churches at special seasons,
Easter, Harvest, and Christmas, they also take a large and
active part ; whilst the permanent adornment of churches with
costly and beautiful embroideries becomes not only a pleasure
but a work of philanthropy, when, as is most often the case,
it is supplied from sisterhoods and penitentiaries where it pro-
vides a livelihood for the women who, through sin and misfor-
tune, have dropped out of the highway of life. In some cases
repositories for the sale of painting and needlework have
been opened for the express purpose of enabling gentle-
women, and the wives and daughters of poor clergy, thus to
add to their slender means. In many rural districts the
training of the choir, and the playing of the organ, is under-
taken by a lady or the village schoolmistress.

But in the parish we have supposed, there are large
factories and mills in which whole families find work, even
the children earning something as soon as the School Board
allows them to become "half-timers," so that here at least
the pinch of poverty is not felt. Is there work for women
here? Yes, much for those whose eyes are opened to see
the need ; not in the way of pecuniary relief, but of social
improvement, intellectual and moral training, and spiritual

The dinner-hour can be used for reading to the mill-hands,
and influence can be brought to bear upon the mill-owner to
provide (where this is not already done) an airy, wholesome,
room in which the dinners can be enjoyed. In cases where
women can only earn very low wages for piece-work, the

Work in connection with the Church. 125

Church has not thought it outside her province to provide for
them a common work-room, to organize them, and in the
person of some lady worker undertake on their behalf large
Government contracts for work at a better price than they
could command individually. By moving thus amongst
them, many can be induced to join the Women's Help, or
the Girls' Friendly, Society, and an evening club with its
recreation-room and classes can be started. Since Miss
Maude Stanley so successfully organized a girls' club for the
shop-girls of London, the value of such clubs has been recog-
nized, and they are multiplying rapidly. They are often the
only way in which an influence can be gained over young girls,
who, alas ! are sadly too independent. The moment they get
to the mill and find they can earn enough for their own
support, they fling off all restraint ; and it is not an uncom-
mon thing to find that a girl has left her home and taken
lodgings for herself, because of some trifling discomfort, or
because her parent has presumed to find fault with her. One
trembles to think of her future with only the streets, or cheap
places of entertainment, for her means of recreation after
work is over. The club provides a shelter, a meeting-ground
for friends, and by means of classes and the intercourse of
ladies, who freely spend their evenings among the girls,
an ideal of a higher life. That this is no baseless dream is
evidenced by the change that comes over the club members.
The growth of their own self-respect is proved by their
changed demeanour, by their more tidy attire ; and if one
should relapse into lower ways, her consciousness that she
has sunk below what she might have been, is shown by her
voluntary withdrawal from club membership. Here again is
a large field of women's work of which no record exists, and
of which no statistics are possible.

But a mother is in trouble about her daughter ; she has
fallen among bad companions, and it seems desirable to
remove her from her present surroundings. The girl has a
wish to go abroad, but she has no means of obtaining
a livelihood. The mother talks it over with the district
visitor, who tells her friends of the case, and by interesting
the squire and the richer parishioners obtains from them the
funds to send the girl to a training home for a while, where

126 Woman's Mission.

she will be fitted for domestic service. When ready for her
journey, she is protected on the way through the agency of
women. The Travellers' Aid Society will send a lady to
meet her as she steps from the train, will conduct her to a
shelter for the night ; the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Church
Emigration Society will assist her with her passage and
provide a matron to care for her and others on the voyage ;
or if she be a member of the Girls' Friendly Society, she will
derive like benefits from its protecting care. Even after
arrival in the new land she is not cast adrift, but is watched
over until suitably placed, and even then is kept in touch
with the old home by means of the post. The Girls' Letter
Guild is doing a good work in this way. Ladies joining the
Guild undertake to write to one or more girls at home or
abroad once a month. This gives them the sense that they
are not unfriended in the world, and a word may often thus
be spoken in season. It has been found that they greatly
value these letters, and willingly confide their troubles and
difficulties to " their ladies," who acquire thus a valuable
influence for good over those whom perhaps they have never
seen. This is a work which can be carried on by women
whose health precludes them from undertaking any more
active service for their Church.

But the more rural parts of the parish must not be neg-
lected. There we find the small farmers' and the game-
keepers' cottages scattered over the moors. What can be
done for them ? Clubs and classes are of little use, for they
could not attend them ; the distances would be too great.
Personal interest and frequent visits are necessary to obtain
an influence. Then the women may be induced to join one
of those societies for maintaining a higher ideal of life which
have been already mentioned, membership in which gives a
reason for gathering them together for an occasional tea, or
periodical work meeting, at which some lady from another
parish will come and give them an address upon the obliga-
tions which rest upon them in the care of their own children
and of the inmates of their household. The maintenance of a
higher standard of purity is a direction in which work in the
rural districts is sorely needed. A curious system still exists
in the north of England of hiring farm servants by the year.

Work in connection with the Church. 127

The "hirings" occur in May or November, when lads and
lasses flock to the neighbouring market town, and stand in
the market-place much like cattle, waiting to be hired. The
farmers come round and pick out one and another, paying
them there and then a portion of their year's wages as a sort
of retaining fee. The occasion is made a general holiday, a
fair or show not infrequently visiting the town at the "hirings,"
and two or three days are spent in enjoyment by these young
people before entering their new service. It is easy to see
into what temptations they are thus thrown. By the efforts
of earnest Churchwomen, rooms are now provided in which
the girls may wait, and every persuasion is being used to
destroy the prejudice of farmers and their wives in favour of
the older method of selection. A mission-woman, who attends
fairs to draw the attention of local authorities to any dis-
graceful exhibitions and to prevent the sale of degrading
literature, has done much to purify these gatherings. Similar
special work, in which women have their share, is undertaken
by the Church in the south of England among the hop-
pickers and harvesters ; while the valuable work done by
Miss Daniell and Miss Robinson among the soldiers, and
by Miss Weston among the sailors, must not be forgotten.
In both, the post affords a valuable ally, the circulation of
the monthly letters among the sailors amounting to about
500,000 ; whilst Bible classes, temperance and social meetings,
homes of rest, industrial work-rooms, and free registry offices
for the wives and widows, flourish and abound. Women also
take their part in the special missions to the Jews, of whom
many are to be found at the centres of industrial and com-
mercial life.

We have seen how English Churchwomen may minister in
the parish, in the schools, among the homes of the poor, in
the care of the churches, to the workers in mills and factories,
and to the farming class ; but what about the rich ? Is there
any opening for them here ? Any work for them to do ?
Yes, much. There are as kindly hearts amongst the rich as
may be found in other ranks ; but the cares of this life, the
deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things, enter into
their hearts and make them unfruitful. " Evil is wrought by
want of thought as well as want of heart." How true it is !

128 Woman s Mission.

Any influence, therefore, that can bring the rich more into
touch with the poor, and with their dependents, is most
valuable, and this is done by women in thousands of ways.
Nothing so awakens the heart as doing a kindness, and the
fact of living among the people brings many an opportunity
before the rich and leisured class. It is comparatively easy
to give of their wealth, and without them few of the orphanages,
refuges, convalescent homes, hospitals, and so forth, could be
supported ; but more valuable by far is their own individual
work. The Church seeks to obtain such. The sense of
parochial life is very strong, and tends to foster a sort of
proprietary right in the necessitous of the parish ; and when
invited to give help, the claim is readily recognized and
admitted. The work may not be so constant, so regular, or
so devoted, as that of those who can say, " This one thing
I do," but it is not to be despised on that account. A casual
visit to a country house might leave the impression that the
lives of the rich and of the poor are very clearly separated ; a
longer sojourn, and a more intimate acquaintance, would
reveal unexpected self-sacrifice and quiet devotion to the
good of others. To undertake a district, the conduct of a
mothers' meeting, or any work which necessitates a constant
attendance, is not easy for those whose lives are not tied to
one spot ; but there are other ways of helping. The Letter
Guild has been already spoken of, and is much appreciated
by the lonely lives of those in domestic service and in shops.
It is valued also as a means of caring for the insane after
they have been discharged from asylums, for even these poor
afflicted ones are not forgotten by a Church who, like her
Lord, seeks to be ever doing good. The sick and suffering
also are thus cheered by a society calling themselves " Watchers
and Workers," and which is said to find its parallel on the
other side of the Atlantic in the " Shut-ups." Like the pen,
the needle may be plied in any spot. Needlework guilds
are popular and useful among the leisured class. By their
means enormous numbers of plain garments are contributed
for distribution amongst poor parishes, hospitals, industrial
homes, etc., whilst such a gift to the poor over-pressed parson
is indeed a god-send. Much Christian kindness is often
shown by the rich towards the clergy a class frequently

Work in connection with the Church. 129

needing as much as, but more difficult to help than, the poor.
If offered sympathetically and privately, they will gladly
accept clothing which the exigencies of fashion cause the
wealthy to discard, whilst still too good for the maid or the
valet. They may also be helped by the establishment of a
Diocesan Holiday Fund, of a home of rest by the sea, of a
pension fund for the time when sickness or old age shall lay
them on one side, and of schools where their children can be
educated on lower terms ; or more simply and more easily
the rich can confer upon them an enormous boon by giving
them the privilege of spending a fortnight at their country
houses, whilst they themselves flock up to London for the

In many large houses a practice is made of entertaining
an overworked nurse, or district visitor, until her strength is
recruited, and in some the lodge is utilized permanently for
such a worthy purpose. Many homes are also partly sup-
ported by the gifts of the rich in which governesses and
ladies earning their own living can reside at a low cost.

But in educational efforts, perhaps, the rich and cultured
class find more natural scope. An association peculiar to
the north of England, called the Ladies' Council of Education,
gives a wonderful picture of the multifarious ways in which
educated women can work for and assist their less favoured
sisters. Affiliated with them, and akin to them, is what
is known as the Northern Union of Domestic Economy,
mentioned here because the Church does not disdain to look
upon such homely subjects as cookery, laundry, and dairy
classes, as worthy her support. The Parents' National Educa-
tional Union also owes its origin to the North. Its effort is
to bring before parents of all classes the most rational
methods of training and rearing children under four heads,
the physical, the mental, the moral, and the religious aspects
of life. It was originated by a lady, and though not limited
to women or to Church members, it is worked by both.

Time fails to tell of all the branches of Church work in
which the women of England are associated. We have tried
to touch upon a few, and lightly sketch some of the work
which is being done in every parish of England ; but how
shall we estimate its magnitude ? Of quiet home work such


130 Woman s Mission.

as this it is impossible to give statistics, since no general
records of what is done are obtainable. Some slight idea
may be gathered when we realize that in almost every parish
of England and there are between fourteen and fifteen
thousand parishes there are to be found ladies, or paid agents,
or both, engaged in one or other of the good works we have
touched upon. A noble army, if we allow only the moderate
estimate of one or two to every parish ; too low an average,
doubtless, when we remember that many town parishes
number some thirty or more as workers.

From whatever point we look at the work from the
aspect of the ground covered, or that of the numerous and
varied agencies employed, or that of the number of workers,
or of the character of the help given, or if we seek to estimate
the results achieved we must be struck by its breadth and
comprehensiveness ; embracing as it does every rank and
class, seeking to gather and utilize from each that special
form of help which the circumstances of life best fit each to
give, and applying them to every form of need, physical,
mental, moral, and spiritual. Truly, woman may be a
ministering angel in the world when following the steps of
Him who " went about doing good."



Hon. Org. Sec. National Union of Women Workers.

" The Unity which we now demand, whether in theory or life, is no longer
the pseudo-unity of external arrangement, as in a machine, but the inward unity
of a living whole." " Science and the Faith," by Aubrey Moore. Introduction,
p. xxix.

AMONG the most striking phenomena of the nineteenth
century, the social historian will, surely number the universal
recourse to machinery. Not only is there a revival of
primitive usages and of the methods of the mediaeval Church,
but Societies, "Armies," Leagues, Unions, Committees, and
" movements " innumerable testify to a keen sense of dis-,
content with existing conditions of life and thought.

The effect to the unprejudiced observer is somewhat^
bewildering. We ask ourselves whether the result may not
be to increase our unrealities and divisions; whether the
sense of individual responsibility is not lessened by these
opportunities for the charity which can be exercised by
deputy and by the drawing of cheques ; whether we may not
be raising a new tyranny in which the voices of the more
thoughtful will be drowned by the clamour of the fanatical
and half-instructed ; whether any number of guilds, with
cards and rules, will draw rich and poor together, or give
the inspiration to a higher life, which is needed by rich and
poor alike. These more or less artificial combinations, do
they testify to an underlying reality ? May we throw our-
selves into this tendency of our age, and trust that we are
following the guidance of One " who is not far from any one

132 Woman s Mission.

of us," but is evolving a better order out of this seeming
confusion ?

We stand between the past and the future. If we would
work well in the present, our theories must have a scientific
basis of carefully considered facts. Then, having well
thought out our generalizations, we should be prepared to
give a reason for our choice of methods, and have courage
and patience in the inevitable slowness of sound progress, as

" The old order changeth, yielding place to new."

" Facts," says Emerson, " are the angels of the Lord "
angels for guidance, angels also of warning. Let us, then,
endeavour to learn something of the ways in which English-
women are working in associated effort to bring religious
principle, womanly pity, and the higher culture, to bear upon
the perplexing problems of latter-day civilization, in order
that we may judge to some extent how far they are success-
ful in dealing with poverty and vice, how far they are raising
public opinion on crucial questions, how far they are spread-
ing " sweetness and light " among an ignorant and Philistine

It would be impossible, in the compass of one brief paper,
to attempt the barest enumeration of the many bodies of
associated women workers in Great Britain and her colonies.
An approximately accurate list is given in the pages of " The
Englishwoman's Year Book." It is enough for us to say
that the religious and philanthropic work of Englishwomen
covers every department of human life, every phase of
human need. English women workers come from every
rank and class from our own Royal Princesses, from women
of high degree, from graduates of our ancient universities,
down to the toil-worn factory-girl who rises at five in the
morning that she may do her house-work and sewing, and
be free to spend her evenings in unpaid labour for her poorer
sisters. Every Church, every congregation, has its band of
workers, Anglican and Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Con-
gregationalist, Wesleyan, Salvationist a mighty army of
untold number, " the great reserve force of humanity," whose
desire and aim is to help on all that makes for righteousness.
Surely this is a great fact. Surely the statesman, the

On Associated Work. 133

philanthropist, the reformer, the theologian, will find here a
matter of deep concern, and see to it that this incalculable
force has its due place in the thickening struggle for human

Let us give precedence to the oldest organized bodies of
women workers among us. Let us think for a moment of the
memories clustering round the names of St. Theresa, of St.
Catharine of Siena, of religious orders like that of St. Vincent
de Paul. They are among us now, these Sisters of Mercy,
Sisters of Charity, Nuns of the Good Shepherd, Faithful
Companions of Jesus, and members of other religious orders,
some three thousand in number in England and Scotland,
who, with unswerving fidelity to their traditions, teach the
poor, the orphan, the blind, and the deaf and dumb, and tend
the sick, the convalescent, and the insane. If, as one shrewd
observer calculates, but one in ten of the members of a sister-
hood is competent to do more than carry out directions given
by the organizing head, the remaining nine-tenths being
unfit even for so much as that without incessant supervision
and advice, one can but admire the more the results
gained by continuity and rule. The educational standard of
the Loretto Nuns is of the highest ; the care of the aged
poor by " The Little Sisters " worthy of all praise ; and the
industrial and reformatory schools managed by other sister-
hoods satisfy even our Government inspectors, men who
know nor fear nor favour. It is evident that each sisterhood
must have a due proportion of women with force of character,
mental power, and capacity for rule ; that, in community
life, the average woman can be trained to much usefulness ;
and that, far from offering a dreary uniformity of experience,
it affords scope for great diversity of operations and for the
development of individual gifts.

But these sisterhoods are more or less exotic among us.
The Church of England, instead of applying correction and
direction, suppressed the religious orders at the Reformation.
" No fact in modern history is more deeply to be deplored,"
says Mr. Lecky,* who is not to be suspected of any ecclesias-
tical bias. The woman of Puritan times was often heroic,
like Lady Rachel Russell or Mrs. Hutchinson ; or saintly, like

* Lecky's " History of European Morals," vol. ii. p. 370.

134 Woman s Mission.

Margaret Godolphin or Margaret Baxter. A parson's wife,
as portrayed by George Herbert, might dress the sores and
wounds of the poor folk of her husband's parish ; a bishop's
wife, like Elizabeth Burnet, might establish charity-schools

Online LibraryAngela Georgina Burdett-CouttsWoman's mission; a series of congress papers on the philanthropic work of women, by eminent writers → online text (page 13 of 49)