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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bury watch which can be fitted into their place by exactest
mechanism. Sometimes they only find their true place after
much weary effort. In these days of many organizations,
no one need stand all the day idle because others will not
welcome their co-operation.

It is also tolerably clear that the majority of English-
women work best in combination, and that the stricter the
rule the more it attracts. Anglican sisterhoods have grown
much faster than the freer order of deaconesses ; the Salva-
tion Army never lacks recruits, while it is often difficult to
find a parish mission-helper or institution matron. The
societies which are tied with the greatest amount of red tape

On Associated Work. 145

increase most rapidly. Women grumble, but join, and
develop esprit de corps.

It is also evident that the world has need of the ministra-
tions of women. As long as it lasts, children must be taught,
sick people nursed, the poor visited and relieved, dull lives
made bright, the better life made possible, and this comes
strictly within their province.

" But what plan gives the best results ? " it is asked. " Is
there not a great waste of hard cash, some six millions of
pounds sterling spent annually in charity in London alone,
and a never-ceasing cry of ' Give, give ' ? To whom shall we
give, and through whom, and how ; and when all is done Cut
bono ? " What can we say ? This that it is time to consider
our ways ; that we do not need more money, but rather how
to apply it ; that in giving money we must give ourselves with
it; that we must better the dwellings of the people, and teach
them honest work for which we will give a fair wage, rather
than the dole of money, food, or clothing, which degrades the
recipient, unless it be given as from friend to friend ; that the
giver must educate herself to see things in dry light, study
the working of the laws affecting the poor, and understand
exactly what agencies are already at work for their benefit,
before she attempts to start others. There is a deplorable
amount of " overlapping " in some quarters. In short, a woman
worker, whether paid agent or volunteer, will be wise if she
train in some definite and specialized way ; if the latter, after
she has spent some probationary years, as a rule, at least
five, in reading, and in the study of human kind as near as
possible to her own home, and while still an inmate of it. She
will be wise if she does this unobtrusively ; in the mean time
not neglecting general mental cultivation, nor that of any talent
she may possess. Nor should she neglect the amenities of her
own social circle. It is not only in benighted villages and in
the slums of cities that " sweetness and light " are needed.

The worker should try to study causes before she attempts
to deal with effects. She must " fence the precipice at the
top before she provides an ambulance at the bottom." She
must inspire reverence for womanhood and shield the unpro-
tected before she tries to rescue the fallen. If the worker be
reasonable, cultivated, earnest, with some experience of life,


146 Woman 's Mission.

some breadth of thought, some range of reading, some know-
ledge of society, her influence will be far wider and deeper
than if she rushes without consideration into practical work,
and is overwhelmed by its demands upon her time and
energies before her nature has had its fair chance of develop-
ment. At present, although we number our " workers "
by thousands, the really first-rate woman is not easily found
when some position of trust and responsibility has to be filled.
Waiting-time is not necessarily lost time.

If the cultivated worker be wise, she will, after she has
herself undergone definite training in the second stage of her
probation, give of what she has received, and accept all the
help from others which she can win them to give her in return.
" Generals do not carry their own despatches ;" there is abun-
dant readiness to be useful, and it is no credit to trained
workers that they should so often break down from over-
pressure. If we can lead, well and good ; but " the battle is
won by the rank and file, and these are not raw recruits, but
trained soldiers."

It is interesting to notice how, gradually but very surely,
these views are winning their way, and a certain change is
coming over the direction taken by some of our most thought-
ful women when planning their future work. There is a
lessened desire to enter sisterhoods or to devote themselves
to the work of organized societies, because in everyday life
there are now such varied opportunities given them for better-
ing the tone of society, and for improving the condition of the
poor. Women have followed the lead of Miss Octavia Hill
as rent-collectors ; they join local committees of the Charity
Organization Society, they look after boarded-out children,
they start girls' clubs, they become Poor-law guardians.
Hardly a girl leaves some of our women's colleges e.g.
Cheltenham and Westfield without interesting herself in
some aspect of philanthropy. There are settlements of
women-students under able guidance in Southwark, at May-
field House, Bethnal Green, and at Victoria Park. We
hardly know a more hopeful sign of the times than this, of
higher education regarded as a means to greater usefulness,
rather than for the delectation of the individual, by girls
whose modesty and teachableness is beyond all praise.

On Associated Work. 147

What shall we say, then, in conclusion ? Would not our
best workers be the first to cry, " Not as if we had already
attained, or were already perfect " ? We acknowledge our
faults, our want of cohesion, our over-great absorption in our
favourite schemes, our tendency to get into a groove, our in-
sularity, our almost superstitious belief in the virtues of an
office, a staff of clerks, and an annual report But we humbly
dare to hope that though we may never again present to the
world " the pseudo-unity of external arrangement," yet that
we may increasingly realize "the inward unity of a living
whole." For do we not walk by faith, though sometimes we
walk in darkness and see no light ? Is it not by faith in
human goodness, faith in human possibilities, faith in God,
that we spend our strength and do not count it wasted, attack
age-long evils, and know that we are on the winning side ?
On both sides of the Atlantic we have our muster-roll of
" heroines of faith," and all unnoted they are by our side
to-day the Nineteenth Century saints sisters, deaconesses,
" Friends," Salvationists, wives, mothers, daughters ; in city,
town, hamlet, and lonely farm ; in fashionable dress and
homely garb ; set in high places, or far removed from the
world's praise or blame ; whose hearts thrill as they think of
its many needs, and are gladdened as their eyes are opened
to see what an exceeding great company is doing battle for
the right.

Nor do we despair of a closer approximation on the part
of women engaged in various ways in these ventures of faith.
In some of our large cities, in Liverpool, Birmingham, Shef-
field, Glasgow, Aberdeen, a Union of Women Workers has
established itself which brings them together periodically
for mutual consultation. In Liverpool, for example, these
quarterly meetings are attended by ladies on some forty to
fifty committees, and their deliberations have already affected
public opinion to a marked extent. The way has been
smoothed for the appointment of women Poor-law guardians,
the excessive hours of work exacted from female pupil-
teachers have been lessened, the younger ladies have been
impressed with the importance of whole-heartedness in work,
the public has learned a new respect for the capacity of
women. The union affords an education to its members,

148 Woman's Mission.

exacts no new work, no new subscription ; it does not in any
way interfere with their perfect independence, and welcomes
all engaged or interested in women's work without distinction
of class or of creed. Each local union is asked to furnish
the Central Council with full information as to the work done
within its area. Its president joins this council, which is
organized on the same broad plan, and has an inquiry office
and bureau in Lower Belgrave Street, London, which under-
takes to focus and redistribute all information which may
tend to promote the physical, mental, moral, and religious
welfare of women.

We hope that branches of the National Union of Women
Workers may be quickly formed in India and the British
colonies, and that we may be able to get into touch with
similar bodies of workers in every land, so that we may know
at once where to turn for information, advice, and help,
especially when the welfare of women and children is con-
cerned. We very earnestly beg for the co-operation of our
sister workers in America, and trust that this unique oppor-
tunity for the interchange of experience afforded by the
Philanthropic Congress, held during the great World's Fair at
Chicago, may lead to lasting and far-reaching results.

( 149 )


IT is not possible to overrate the value of woman's work
and influence in this branch of philanthropic and Christian
usefulness. There is no work among our fallen sisters that
more needs the services of their own sex than that of helping
them to rise once more, and from the depths of their
degradation to attain the level of an honest and useful life.

I will endeavour to give a short sketch of the general
system of rescue work as carried on in London particularly ;
and by this I mean woman's rescue work among women,
as distinct from penitentiary and preventive work.

Our object is the rescue of women, girls, and children
from an immoral and degrading life, and often it is possible
to restore those of the better class to their families and

Among the many societies and associations which have
for their aim the rescue of young women, perhaps it may be
well to give as an example the methods of work employed
by the Female Mission to the Fallen, whose chief office is at
the Reformatory and Refuge Union, Charing Cross. This
is the central place of reference and advice for rescue
workers, whether they are working in connection with the
Union or not.

Outdoor rescue work is the largest and most varied of
all woman's work among the fallen, and includes visitation
of the streets, etc., attendance at the police courts, visitation
of the prisons, visitation of lodging-houses, visitation of work-
houses, visitation of hospitals.

At the office in Charing Cross are kept the registers of

150 Woman 's Mission.

many thousand cases that have been dealt with from time to
time. Here also is prepared quarterly a list of women who
gain entrance into homes for the purpose of doing mischief;
professing penitence, they seek to draw away those who are
really penitent. The managers of homes throughout the
kingdom receive periodically such particulars as may be
helpful to them in recognizing these mischief-makers when
they apply, so that should they be admitted they may be
treated with that caution and firmness which are most
likely to conduce to their reformation, and thus prevent their
evil influence ruining the other inmates.

Information about the homes and about the work is
collected and tabulated and made available for any one
carrying on missionary efforts among the fallen. Quite
recently a detailed list of all the Homes and Refuges for the
Fallen in the United Kingdom has been published, showing
the address of each home, the class received, the terms of
admission, the number of inmates, the name and address
of the honorary secretary and of the superintendent or
matron, etc.

By this mission London has been divided into seven
districts for the purpose of periodical visitation by the
missionaries of the Female Mission to the Fallen. To each
of these districts there is appointed at least one missionary,
and in some a mission-house has also been established.

Quoting from their report, it may be well to note that
rescue work is of such a varied character that it is difficult
to convey any adequate idea of it as a whole ; but four
general aspects of it may be taken in connection with this
mission : the office work, the outdoor work, the mission-
house work, and the work done by the training-homes.

An active branch of outdoor work is visitation of the
streets. It is held that every fallen woman in London should
know of a friend to whom to turn for help when desirous to
lead a better life. One of the methods is to distribute tracts
by the missionaries of various societies and homes nightly in
the streets and parks ; and at the end of each tract is written
the name and address of the friend who will welcome a visit
from any wandering sister, and will gladly help her to for-
sake her evil life. In many cases cards are given, simply

Rescue Work by Women among Women. 151

bearing the name and address of the mission or of the helper,
accompanied with a few kind and friendly words. Any one
accustomed to go into the streets for this purpose is, in course
of time, able to detect any new faces that she meets with ;
these are the most hopeful.

In the War Cry, the organ of the Salvation Army, the
following paragraph is inserted :

" To THE DISTRESSED. Any poor girl in need of a friend may write to Mrs.
Bramwell Booth, 259, Mare Street, Hackney, London, who will try and help or
give advice where possible. The Salvation Army also invites parents, relations,
and friends in any part of the world interested in any woman or girl who is
known or feared to be living in immorality, or is in danger of coming under the
control of immoral persons, to write, stating full particulars, with names, dates,
and addresses of all concerned, and, if possible, a photograph of the person in
whom the interest is taken. All letters, whether from these persons or from
such women or girls themselves, will be regarded as strictly confidential. They
may be written in any language, and should be addressed to Mrs. Bramwell
Booth, 259, Mare Street, Hackney, London."

This paragraph is also repeated in the paper in the
French and German languages.

The rescuing medium of the Salvation Army has now
become so well known that for the last two years they have
stopped systematic outdoor rescue work ; i.e. going out to
seek rescue cases pure and simple, as so many of these cases
come into their hands that their receiving-houses are already
overcrowded ; but their agencies visit houses in systematic
rescue work in the provinces, where the local cases are fewer
to deal with.

In its laundry and factory-visiting, the Army has to
deal with mixed cases of rescue and preventive work ; and
in their slum work the officers come across rescue cases, but
do not now seek them out as a speciality.

With the visitation of the common lodging-houses of
London is, perhaps, connected the most difficult part of
rescue work. In distributing tracts nightly, the missionary
seeks every opportunity of conversing with some of the
women, and, if possible, of obtaining an address where they
can be seen in the daytime. They do not readily give an
address, and when they do, it is too often a false one, or one
at which no access is to be gained to the poor woman by any
one suspected of having really good intentions towards her.
Some of the missionaries gain access to the common lodging-
houses, where there are always women of the class we are

152 Woman s Mission.

seeking to save. Much tact has to be exercised in the use of
this privilege. If the missionary has some flowers to dis-
tribute, she can more readily gain a hearing, and so simple
a ruse may well be regarded as justifiable in facilitating the
efforts of the seeker after these lost ones.

The system used is to catch the women about ten in the
morning, before they are up, or from five to seven in the
evening, when they are dressing to go out. The workers
go into the houses with flowers or pictures, and if the worker
gets a chance, she will persuade a girl to come outside and
have a talk, as there are always old women watching over
the younger ones to prevent their being taken away from
them, and it is these old crones who are the dangerous
enemies of the workers.

A missionary told me just lately that she has succeeded
in speaking to some of these girls who are living in what are
called " the doubles," i.e. those lodging-houses intended for
the use of couples, the keepers of which make no inquiries,
and it is needless to say that the marriage bond rarely links
the men and women who frequent them. The missionary
has pleaded with a girl three months without effect, and at
last she has come to say they are willing to be married.
The missionary has frequently bought the penny or two-
penny wedding-ring and lent the woman clothes for the

The most hopeful class in rescue work are the women
with illegitimate children ; but there is always great difficulty
in providing for a woman who has her child to maintain, as so
few missions provide a shelter for women with their babies,
and this is a great want in the work. A home for this class
of women and their infants will be found among the branches
of our own mission.

Another form of outside work is among those who are
placed in the hospitals many of these women coming to the
various homes in a very feeble and diseased state of health.
This is carried on very largely in almost all the Lock Wards
of our hospitals and infirmaries ; it is so much easier to get
hold of these poor girls during the time of their illness and
weakness, as they are then so much more amenable to kind-
ness, and a very large proportion of cases in our homes come

Resciie Work by Women among Women. 153

to us through influence gained over them during sickness
by lady visitors. We may perhaps mention that a small
hospital has been opened by the National Vigilance Associa-
tion especially for these cases, the committee and the entire
staff doctors as well as nurses being ladies.

In order that the general working system of a rescue
mission may be clearly understood, I have been asked to
write, as concisely as I can, a short sketch showing how this
mission began and how it has attained its present scope and
influence, to make clear our aims and purposes, and to show
something of the practical working of our system at the
Bridge of Hope, Ratcliff Highway, London.

Our work is Christian, but undenominational. It is purely
a mission from women to women, girls, and children, and was
from the first only for those of the very lowest social scale.
These, at the time this work began, were precisely the least
aided and the most difficult to help. I am glad to say that
our endeavours have been so encouraged and sustained that,
beginning with six young women of the locality in which
our home is situated, we are enabled to count by hundreds
those who now pass yearly through our hands.

For the beginning of this work I must go back thirteen
years. It was in 1879 that I went to the Ratcliff High-
way, which was then one of the worst parts of all the
East End of London, and one which was at that time but
little known except to police and the resident clergy or City
missionaries. I wished to live among these people, to help
them where they stood ; feeling that to attain any lasting
practical good we must get a fuller comprehension of the
social atmosphere of their own individual lives, so as better
to judge of their weaknesses, temptations, and sins from their
own standpoint, and amid the pressure of their own daily
surroundings ; realizing that this method alone would enable
one to judge more wisely what help to give, when to give it,
and under what circumstances to make exceptions to usual
rules. Without this merging of our own lives into theirs, and
a serious and practical study of the world in which these
poor degraded ones live, we shall never make the headway
we desire in saving what are called the " lapsed classes."
The lower classes cannot gain much help from those of a

154 Woman's Mission.

higher social level, unless fundamental knowledge of their
wants and capabilities is first gained by those who would
work for the benefit and advantage of those they seek to
help. This is why casual visiting among the poor is so often
of such little avail in spite of well-meant efforts.

The first simple step I took to get hold of the women I
wanted was to go out into the Highway and the bad neigh-
bourhood around and ask some of the girls to come and have
tea with me. Objections would be raised, " We've got our
knitting to do," etc. ; but I used to say, " Well, bring your
knitting with you," and so by degrees I prevailed and they
would come a little afraid of being preached at, and a little
anxious to know what I was going to do.

After tea we would talk on all manner of subjects, and
I would do my best to amuse and interest my audience
bringing in gradually a few words of advice and simple
friendliness, letting them feel that a friend, who would be a
friend in need, was living in their midst, whose only desire
was to help them in their weary lives, and to aid them to
mount to something higher. A little prayer, a little reading
were got in by degrees, and so with patience and constant
gentle pushing this difficult pioneer work, which is always the
hardest, progressed.

By degrees a few workers joined me, and our little band
grew. My hands were strengthened by co-operation, and the
poor people for whom we were striving day by day became
slowly accustomed and attached to us.

I took a little house in Prince's Square, just out of the High-
way, large enough to receive six young women, and from that
time to this I am thankful to say we have never been in debt,
though we have been, and are often, in sore straits to carry on
our labour of love. The mission is entirely supported by
voluntary contributions ; and when at times we have been
forced to make an occasional appeal, the response has been
generous and hearty, as I am sure it would be in any country ;
for a national heart is always a charitable one.

In 1884 we were able to take three houses in Betts Street,
and turn them into a Refuge, from which our present large
mission building has grown. One of these was an old public-
house, the Sugar Loaf, of far and ill-famed notoriety, and the

Rescue Work by Women among Women. 155

two adjoining houses were both of bad repute. These also
comprised a spacious room in the rear that had been a
dancing-saloon, and this has been transformed into our bright
little mission hall.

Betts Street, when we first began, contained thirty-five
houses of the worst possible repute, and it was certainly not
a safe thoroughfare long after three o'clock in the afternoon.
Before that hour its inhabitants were for the greater part

The work is now divided into three distinct branches : ist.
The Night Shelter, or the work among destitute women ;
2nd. Rescue Work among fallen women carried on in the
Refuge ; and 3rd. The Preventive Work among little girls
who have been born among the very worst surroundings.

The number of women and girls who have passed through
the " Bridge of Hope " is as follows :

Rescue cases. Preventive Total.


1880-1 no 37 147

1881-2 131 26 157

1882-3 I 8 3 59 242

1883-4 221 85 306

1884-5 2 73 93 366

1885-6 274 125 399

1886-7 287 135 422

1887-8 204 93 297

1888-9 265 122 387

1889-90 222 l82 404

1890-1 254 176 430


Night's lodgings.

1885-6 1738

1886-7 1007

1887-8 1027

1888-9 6072

1889-90 5855

1890-1 5201

It may be said that our numbers do not seem larger in
proportion now ; let it be remembered, therefore, that now
we keep and train and educate, where at first we passed on
elsewhere. The cases that only stay a few nights are now
included in the Night Shelter list.

Perhaps some idea of the mission house as a building

156 Woman's Mission.

would be of practical use. One division is the Night
Shelter ; the larger portion forms the Refuge for Women and
a Home for the workers, with the laundry whic^i occupies the
whole of the highest floor of the building. We have also our
industrial branches in the Home of Needle-work and Dress-
making, and the Knitting Department, where machine knitting
is carried on as a trade. Last year we earned just 600.
The whole was erected and furnished at the total cost of
$479 i8s. lod. The preventive work is carried on in cottage
homes situated at a distance from the refuge. Besides this

Online LibraryAngela Georgina Burdett-CouttsWoman's mission; a series of congress papers on the philanthropic work of women, by eminent writers → online text (page 15 of 49)