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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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and spend four-fifths of her income on the poor ; and a knot
of good women, "the Protestant Nuns "of Little Gidding,
might lead a retired and consecrated life ; later on, in the
eighteenth century, a Susannah Wesley might show how the
duty of a housewife and a mother was compatible with a
larger care for the men and women about her ; but the con-
ception of religion and duty for two centuries was mainly
that of home and neighbourhood, with little outlook beyond.
Education was limited, locomotion difficult, but the towns
were smaller, and there was less separation of class from
class, though social grades were very distinctly marked.

It needed the shock of the Evangelical revival to draw
women from their sheltered homes to teach in Sunday
schools, like Hannah More and Mrs. Trimmer ; to visit
prisons, like Sarah Martin and Elizabeth Fry ; to become
collectors for the support of foreign missions, and of the Bible
Society ; to become " class-leaders " in the meetings of the
Methodists, and tract-distributors on behalf of both Church
and Chapel. It was the closer knowledge thus gained of the
home life of the poor which led to the establishment of
Dorcas-meetings to sew garments for the destitute, and of
sick-visiting societies to give them beef-tea and spiritual
consolation. The conversion of the individual was the main
point in the minds of the followers of Whitefield and Wesley ;
of Newton, Cecil, and "the Clapham sect." Women like
Lady Huntingdon were as "mothers in Israel;" the stir of
a deepened life touched the great English middle and working
classes ; and zeal for the conversion of souls was mingled
with compassion for the misery of the prisoner and captive,
and for the lot of the negro in our West Indian possessions.
The outlook had widened.

Yet another stream of tendency may be traced to the
later revival associated with the names of Dr. Pusey and of
Keble, of Dr. Neale and Isaac Williams. Men's minds turned
back to " the ages of faith." Poetry, art, fiction, a quickened
admiration for the architecture of the Middle Ages, all tended



On Associated Work. 135



to increase the strong desire felt for " the religious life," not
only in daily services and frequent communions, but in the
entire dedication of body, soul, and spirit, to the service of
God, in contemplation and active duty. Many thought their
ideal incompatible with ordinary life. No "brotherhood " has
as yet been successfully formed, but the sisterhoods of the
Anglican Church are a very important factor in its economy.
They are now twenty-nine in number, each mother-house
being the head-quarters of a numerous band of workers. They
have sought their model in various quarters, and their rules
are diverse. In some instances the sisters are individually
blessed and received into the order by the Bishop of the
diocese ; others are more conventual and self-contained.
Besides the home mission work in the streets and lanes of
our cities, in orphanages, schools, hospitals, penitentiaries, in
rescue work and in nursing, four sisterhoods work in India,
three in the United States, and one at Cape Town. Clewer
alone has two hundred sisters, and has helped to establish
an independent sisterhood in New York ; while the great
community of All Saints, Margaret Street, London, has
founded a "coloured" sisterhood in Baltimore, U.S. ; and the
sisters of Bethany, a mission to the Nestorian Christians in
Persia. Thus they stretch out hands of love to East and
West, content to serve in lowliest ways as handmaids of the
Church and of humanity.

The order established at Kilburn in the north of London,
and known as " The Sisters of the Church," owes its place in
popular affection very largely to the fact that it systematically
takes the public behind the scenes, as month by month it
tells what it is doing in a little paper entitled Our Work.
Wonderful work it is, and wonderfully is the interest felt in
it sustained. The sisters are full of resource, ready to sell
old clothes and old books, or to trudge through miry streets
to sell penny portions of soup and halfpenny slices of
pudding to the unfortunate men who stand in hundreds
round the docks and wharves by the Thames, while waiting,
too often in vain, for employment. You may see them again
at Broadstairs, the breezy little place on the Kentish coast
with its quaint pier, dear to Charles Dickens and to us for
his sake. There they are with their three hundred sickly



136 Woman s Jl fission.



little ones, many of them cripples with a strong likeness to
"Tiny Tim," who drink in lessons of love and goodness, as
well as pure air, in the bright Convalescent Home with its
wide verandah which stands on the top of the chalk cliffs.
Again you may find them in London slums teaching poor
women to help themselves by giving them work to do, and
fair pay for doing it. Under the burning sky of Madras they
teach "our poor relations," the Eurasians. At home their
orphans, drawn from the very lowest and poorest class, are
"mothered" until they are twenty-one, and after that are
sent out well taught and trained to earn their living as
servants, as elementary school teachers, or as assistant-
matrons in the sixty houses belonging to the sisterhood. It
needs much money to support their five orphanages, thirteen
day schools, three convalescent homes, and eleven other
branches of educational work, and there is no endowment.
The sisters give of their private means to the last penny, and
they are helped by the faithful. The work never slackens,
is always growing, and never has to stop for lack of funds.
Who can say that the age of faith is past?

Some thirty years since a quiet movement was set going
in the Anglican Church with the object of reviving the
primitive order of deaconesses as a definite part of its system ;
and at the present time there are eight bodies of Church
deaconesses, working under the direction of their bishops in
the dioceses of Ely, London, Rochester, Chester, Salisbury,
and Winchester. Probationers, who must be educated women
of undoubted character, receive thorough training in practical
details, and due religious instruction, for at least two years.
Then, if approved, they are set apart by the Bishop, to work
in a parish whether in town or country, and are henceforth
responsible solely to him and to their parish priest. They
are thus a recognized " order " in the sacred ministry, with
work as varied as the needs of the parish to which they go.
The deaconess is very often a hospital-trained nurse, but she
is also trained for " the cure of souls," and is very valuable as
the recognized guide and leader of the voluntary helpers in
woman's work in a parish.

In the north of England, among the mining villages in
the diocese of Durham, Canon Body's mission-ladies live, two



On Associated Work. 137



and two, among the people, in places where there is frequently
no resident lady. The training they receive is very similar
to that of the deaconesses, and they carry on the same kind
of work, but without " ordination " or recognized status.
When in receipt of a salary, it is usually from one-third to
one-half of that ordinarily received by the assistant clergy,
and is only sufficient for bare maintenance in humble lodgings.

The order of St. Vincent de Paul still does true deaconess
work in the Church of Rome. " They consist," says its Con-
stitution, " of girls and of widows unencumbered with children,
destined to seek out the poor in the alleys and streets of
cities ; they have for monastery the houses of the sick ; for
cell, a hired room ; for their chapel, the parish church ; for
their cloister, the streets of the town or the wards of the
hospital ; for their enclosure, obedience ; for grating, the fear
of God ; for veil, holy modesty."

There is room for the deaconess, the counterpart of the
" sister of charity " in the Church of England, ample room
for the ministry of women, as Church officials who will work
loyally with those in authority. At present there is a great need
of women as heads of training institutions to meet the
demand of our English bishops for those who will begin this
work for them.

Undoubtedly our Anglican sisterhoods at first copied very
much from Roman models, and were somewhat regardless
of whether the rules and customs they adopted were archaic,
or were modern innovations. Broadly speaking, the earlier
orders in the mediaeval Church were formed on the model
of the family, with deference and obedience due to the head,
but with much regard to individuality. The model of the
" counter- Reformation " was rather that of a regiment, in
which each member is under strict discipline. Our Anglican
sisterhoods have each their own " rule," conforming, more or
less, to these varying types. This the world recognizes, so
far as it knows anything of systems which do not thrust them-
selves upon its observation. But what is not recognized is that
some of the most intensely Protestant forms of community-
life owe much in their inception to the Roman religious orders,
even if they do not trace descent from them. Thus the
Moravian sisters are lineally descended from the Franciscan



o



8 Woman s Mission.



Tertiaries of the Fourteenth Century, and Pastor Fliedner
borrowed freely from them, from the B6guines, and the
Society of St. Vincent de Paul in founding Kaiserwerth
(in 1822), which now has its roll of eight thousand Protestant
deaconesses working over the whole continent of Europe.
No name on that roll is so dear to English-speaking folk as
that of Florence Nightingale. " The Lady with the Lamp "
at Scutari has never ceased to bring wise counsels to bear
upon the reforms of our nursing system from her chamber of
sickness. Our trained nurses, some twenty thousand in
number, owe much to the stimulus of her example, and to
her constant care for the work in which she first disciplined
herself at Kaiserwerth.

Kaiserwerth has one small branch in England, the un-
denominational " Deaconess " Home at Tottenham, but we
find in Mrs. Meredith's work for discharged prisoners and
the children of female convicts, and in the great centre known
as "Mildmay," the most striking proofs that association for
work commends itself to those of strictly Evangelical and
Protestant views. Mrs. Meredith was the first to advocate
cottage homes for children in preference to huge barrack-like
institutions ; while to recount the work done at Mildmay
would be simply to re-catalogue much which is common to
that done by others on more strictly Church lines. The
workers deaconesses, as they are termed live in a mother-
house, and mission out from thence in eight of the poorest
and lowest districts in London. Mrs. Pennefather, its moving
spirit, who has just been laid to her rest (in January, 1893),
thought this relief necessary for the health, both physical and
mental, of those who had been on duty for hours among the
sights and sounds and smells of such a neighbourhood as
that in Bethnal Green. " Five thousand seven hundred
people," says the Standard, " live in this area of fifteen acres.
The death-rate is forty in the thousand ; infant mortality,
two hundred and fifty-two per thousand. There are seven
hundred and thirty houses in the place, of which seven
hundred and fifty-two rooms are let out as single tenements,
nineteen of these rooms containing five or more inhabitants
in each." Happily it has been condemned as unfit for habi-
tation, and will soon cease to exist. A large proportion of



On Associated Work. 139

the 29,000 which is yearly expended on the good work of
Mildmay is supplied by the earnings of its nurses, the gifts
of its workers, and the sale of the very beautiful illuminations
which are executed by two of their number as a labour
of love.

Women like Mrs. Meredith and Mrs. Pennefather typify
the Church of England side of the Evangelical revival of
the last century, which has never ceased to be largely and
ably represented among us. The spirit and the teaching are
the same, although the scope of their efforts has been greatly
enlarged, and the breath of the " Zeit Geist " has passed over
them.

Turning to the present-day representatives of the great
Methodist body, we watch with interest a development, with
variations, of the " sisterhood " idea, which is gaining ground
in the West London Mission under the direction of Mrs.
Hugh Price Hughes. No adhesion is required to any standard
of doctrine ; any sister is free to work out her own ideas,
provided only that she succeeds ; and though a becoming
uniform is worn, it is only worn when on duty. The sisters
do not quit the world, but are encouraged to take an active
interest in social questions, including municipal, school board,
and Parliamentary elections, helping to canvass for what they
consider "the right side." They speak at outdoor meetings,
go in and out of the public-houses, visit room by room in
and about the Seven Dials, and are a cheery, active set of
good women, friendly helpers of the people of a democratic
sort, and, true to Methodist traditions, they tell the "old,
old story " unweariedly, feeling that " the soul of all improve-
ment is the improvement of the soul." The Methodist
sister is the Anglican district visitor, with a difference. She
chooses her own work, and, if her home be outside the
metropolitan area, may live at a pleasantly arranged house
which is a centre for the work of the mission. As she
takes no vows, and owes no one allegiance or obedience,
it is apparent that she is not a " sister " in any ecclesiastical
sense.

The Baptists, the Primitive Methodists, and the Con-
gregationalists are feeling their way to a "forward" move-
ment of a somewhat similar kind. This will afford a valuable



140 Woman s Mission.



outlet for some of the daughters of prosperous Nonconformist
families, and give orthodox Dissent a more real touch with
the everyday life and difficulties of the people.

The greater number of the women whose work has been
cursorily treated thus far, are members of the upper and
middle classes, women of education and refinement, and ac-
customed to comfort, if not to luxury. Very many are giving
not only personal and gratuitous service, but large gifts of
money, which have enabled their communities to build
hospitals, convalescent homes, schools, orphanages, etc., with
little or no help from the outside public. But the world has
a use, too, for the women of lower rank and less cultivation,
imbued with the same earnest desire to do good as their
sisters of another class, whose work as Parochial Mission-
women, Church Army nurses, Bible-women, and parish
helpers, is of immense value. They live as the poor among
the poor. They know their ways of life, their habits of
thought ; they can feel with them as well as for them ; they
can detect imposture ; they can use great plainness of speech ;
they can be a most valuable link between the ladies who
supervise them and the people to whom they go. The gulf
more difficult to bridge than any other is that between the
artisan and small shopkeeper and the unskilled labourer.
Mission-women, drawn chiefly from the ranks of the former,
need the delicacy and tact of the superintending lady, when
they are sent to deal with the latter. Given common sense
and earnest purpose on the part of both lady and mission-
helper, the combination is almost perfect, and the results of
their joint work of the most satisfactory kind.

Of course, the very existence of professional or of paid
workers opens the door to a very real danger, if it tempt us
to regard "the service of humanity" as something with which
the woman living the ordinary life of home, as daughter,
sister, wife, and mother, has nothing to do beyond bidding
it "God-speed," and giving it an occasional donation. "The
Society of Friends" has always borne its testimony to the
claim of women to an equal share with men in an unpaid
ministry, which must be exercised by those who are led to
it by "the inner light," in their everyday walk. Its women
have for generations fulfilled every duty to home and family,



On Associated Work. 141



while they have also spoken at meetings, and practised habits
of business which make them excellent members of com-
mittees. They show us how women may take part in affairs,
and yet remain among the quietest and most womanly of
their sex. Unpretending as they are, there is no body,
numerically so small, with a tithe of its weight. Twenty
years ago "the Friends" were diminishing in number. There
has been no leakage since in their admirable "First Day"
and other schools ; the cultivated young people from refined
Quaker homes have found that they, too, had a mission to
the less favoured classes.

It needs a distinct effort to recall the fact that Quakerism
had a stormy youth, and that on both sides of the Atlantic
it long suffered unmerited persecution. We wonder what
will be the future of " the Salvation Army," which bears so
many points of resemblance to it. The Salvation Army
professedly deals with the seamy side of things "in a re-
making of men which can only be done by hand." What
does it not owe to Catharine Booth, "the Army Mother,"
"a born prophetess if ever there were one in the world,"
whose splendid enthusiasm and intense power led hundreds
of other women to give up worldly prospects, "to endure
hardness," to put themselves on a level with the lowest, "if
by any means they might save some ! "

" Where do we find the women for such work ? " asks one
of its leaders. " Not usually among those fished up them-
selves out of the deep sea of sin. Nor usually among those
too daintily born and bred." A dressmaker, a cook, a lady's-
rnaid, a type-writer, such are the women who are ready to
give up good situations, with good salaries, and the prospect
of making some small provision for old age, in order that
they may enlist in the "Slum Brigade," and take up their
"post" in crowded courts and by-streets in the midst of
" the submerged."

" When the poor souls they work among are ' saved,' " says
Mrs. Bramwell Booth, "they find themselves welcomed with
joy into a great family which gives friends to the lonely and
friendless. In its work for other lost ones she may join, and
in turn its leaders will watch over her ; living or dying they
will count her one of themselves."



142 Woman s Mission.

Surely this is no new teaching. Had it been so far for-
gotten that we needed the rise of the Salvation Army to
remind us of our membership in the "one body" to sin-
stricken and suffering humanity? Did we need to be taught
that there are higher ideals than mere ease, comfort, respect-
ability, a family pew, and the world's praise or even than
"the higher culture"? This question of the proletariat is
forced upon us whether we will or no. Such people as these
cannot be raised en masse ; it must be done individually.
We shall be wise if we can bring in recruits from any and
every grade, and give to them also a share in the world's
making.

Across the Tweed, women's work is differentiated by the
fact that the form of Church government is Presbyterian, and
that organization is mainly on Congregational lines, not only
among members of the Established Church, but also of the
Free Church, the United Presbyterians, and the Episcopa-
lians and other Nonconforming bodies. Several societies
which in England are worked solely by members of the
Anglican Church are undenominational in Scotland. Such
are the Scotch Girls' Friendly Society, the Mothers' Union,
and the " Onward and Upward Association," which is known
in England as " The Women's Help Society." In Scotland,
as in England, the Young Women's Christian Association
bands together young women of every class on a religious
basis, and numbers thousands of adherents. Perhaps the
most picturesque bit of good work with which we are ac-
quainted is that of the deaconesses of the Church of Scot-
land, who follow the herring along its northern coast in order
to bind up the cut hands, brighten the scanty leisure, and
exercise a wise and loving influence over the migratory,
bonnetless lassies who crowd into the little fishing-villages
during the herring season. In Scotland, as in England, the
number of ladies working in connection with the Girls'
Friendly Society, the Mothers' Union, the Women's Help
Society, in Ladies' Associations for the care of Girls, and
in countless lesser guilds and societies, among the manifold
duties and distractions of ordinary life, is very great. Some
can give but fragments of time, others make it practically
a life-work. It is a rare thing, among a large circle of our



On Associated Work. 143



best and most cultivated women, to come across one who
is not doing something' for women and children, for lads or
for men.

It is not only women of English, Welsh, and Scotch
nationality of whom this can be said. " The stranger within
our gates " must not be forgotten. German Lutherans, French
Protestants, English Jewesses, are alike organized for self-
sacrificing effort.

Jewish charity is Talmudic rather than Mosaic, and does
not begin until the tithe has been duly paid into the treasury
of God. With the constant pressure from Eastern Europe
due to Russian persecution, the wealthier among them have
large demands made upon their generosity ; but the immigrant,
penniless and ignorant of the English language though he
may be, is never long either penniless or ignorant. The
admirable system of relief of the Jewish Board of Guardians
helps to set him on his feet, and mother-wit, and habits of
thrift pushed to the point of penuriousness, do the rest. With
wonderful tenacity and industry, the Jew is constantly better-
ing his position. With great mental ability he is constantly
finding his way into the front rank of commerce. Made a
compact body by tradition and by centuries of persecution,
the Jews have been trained to give largely, and seem equal
to all demands made upon them by their poorer brethren.

The work of the Jewish ladies runs parallel with our own
as regards methods. The sabbath schools, the mission
services, the girls' clubs, the elementary and high schools
for girls, the children's happy holidays the invalid kitchen,
the needlework guild, the personal service guild, the pre-
ventive and rescue work, are all conceived and carried on
with sympathetic insight, and much common sense and ability.
One very characteristic feature is the Jewish Ladies' Loan
Society, which has worked well for the last forty-six years,
and has met with marked success. It assists the deserving
poor with loans of money without interest or other charge. The
sums vary from ten shillings to ten pounds, and are repaid by
weekly instalments of one-twentieth until the debt is liqui-
dated. Two ladies in rotation from the committee visit the
applicants, and if they think them fit persons give them letters
of recommendation to the secretary (a paid officer), which



144 Woman s Mission.



are exchanged by him for the sum of money lent. No new
loan is granted while a previous loan is in course of repay-
ment, nor is any person entitled to a loan who may be
indebted for an advance of money to any other society.
During 1892, 359 loans were granted, the loans amounting to
2032 icxr., the repayment being ,1908. These loans have
frequently been the means of keeping a home together, or
of giving a hawker or small tradesman a fresh start in life,
or of tiding over a time of exceptional sickness and distress.
The society also affords the lady visitors a reasonable ground
for visiting the poor and ascertaining their condition.

The good offices of these Jewish ladies, our fellow-citizens,
are by no means confined to their co-religionists, but are very
largely extended also to the Christians among whom their
lot is cast, and many of them gladly co-operate in efforts for
the spread of education, wholesome recreation, and temperance
with Christian workers.

What shall we say, then, of the work so barely outlined,
of which the half is not told ? It is evident that no section
of the community has a monopoly of good intentions, of
earnest aspirations, of self-sacrificing zeal. It is evident that
we must allow for varying idiosyncrasies, for the different
ways of looking at things due to heredity, to environment, to
early education and the discipline of life. We cannot, if we
would, suppress or repress these varying activities and
methods. We must make large allowance for what may
seem to us crude, imperfect, over-zealous, or done in ignorance
of higher truth. Human beings are not like bits of a Water-



Online LibraryAngela Georgina Burdett-CouttsWoman's mission; a series of congress papers on the philanthropic work of women, by eminent writers → online text (page 14 of 49)