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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one founded by Miss Rye, and another by Miss Newbury.
But the Deaf and Dumb seem somehow to have escaped the
meshes of our net.

The Princess Mary Village Homes for little girls was
founded in 1870 by Mrs. Meredith, to take care of and rescue
the young daughters of prisoners with whom she was brought
into contact by her Prison Mission. There are about two
hundred children in these homes, which are conducted on
the family system ; ten girls being placed in one cottage,
under the care of a motherly matron.

The Boarding-Out of Workhouse Children is almost
wholly in the hands of women ; and its success or failure in
any one place will be due to the committee of ladies, who
undertake to superintend the children committed to their
care. The number of boarded-out children, either orphan
or deserted, is increasing yearly ; finding work in many
villages for both the hands and hearts of the women. In
the majority of cases the result is very satisfactory. The
children lose, or rather do not acquire, the pauper taint.
Instead of looking on the crowded workhouse school as the
home of their childhood, to which it is only too natural to
return, they have wholesome memories of their foster-parents,
and the cottage life, simple and homely and human, where
their early impressions were formed. There is perhaps no
work done for the poor by Englishwomen more valuable
than the careful supervision of boarded-out children. The
Orphan Association, founded in memory of Mrs. Nassau
Senior, is conducted on the boarding-out system. She
was the first female Inspector of Workhouses appointed by
the English Government, and did incalculable service to
her country by calling attention to the miserable condition
of children in workhouse schools. The Orphan Association
boards out its little charges in families of the same position
in life as that of their deceased parents.

Of late years one of the most popular forms of charity has
been the Children's Country Holiday. Fifty or sixty miles
round London the smaller railway stations are familiar with
the sight of bands of children, coming and going every fort-
night or so, to have a holiday amongst the green fields and
fresh air of the country. They come pallid and unhealthy-

jo Woman 's Mission.

looking from their homes in the slums and alleys of London,
and they return with something like the rosy and merry faces
of childhood. How or where the idea first started is a
doubtful question ; but no sooner had it been started than it
was eagerly seized upon, and carried into execution.

But time would fail to tell of the shoe clubs ; the clothing
clubs ; the penny and halfpenny dinners ; the tea-meetings ;
the happy evenings ; the magic-lanterns ; the summer treats ;
the numerous and ingenious forms in which women's charity
is constantly and unobtrusively pouring itself out in behalf
of the children of the poor.

Almost the latest development of this charity has been
the organizing of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Children. This society has been, and is, the work of
men and women, loyally combining to achieve one end. It
is said to have had its origin in the heart of a dying woman
in a miserable tenement-house in New York. She sent a
message to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals, that she could not die in peace for the cries of
a child who was being cruelly used. Societies were quickly
formed in the United States. Mr. Agnew of Liverpool
brought the scheme home with him from a visit to America,
and soon established a Shelter in Liverpool, which I visited
a few weeks after it was opened. I had long been cognizant
of the terrible deeds of cruelty done to poor children, espe-
cially for the purpose of begging.

In the early summer of 1884 Mr. Agnew came to London,
and conferred with me on the founding of a society there.
The Bishop of Bedford, Dr. Billing, then the rector of a large
parish in the East End, introduced me and my cause to a
small committee of ladies, meeting at the house of the
Baroness Burdett-Coutts. They eagerly adopted the scheme,
and from that interview our success was uninterrupted. The
great philanthropist, Lord Shaftesbury, gladly accepted the
position of President. Cardinal Manning, another great
philanthropist, thoroughly acquainted with the tragedies of the
lowest depths of London life, joined the movement heartily.
Men and women of all religious sects and all political
opinions made the children's cause a common ground of
union. Benjamin Waugh, the author of " The Gaol Cradle

Women s Work for Children. 1 1

Who rocks it?" a man who had devoted himself to the
welfare of street children, gave himself heart and soul to the
work. It was discovered that unmentionable atrocities were
perpetrated in what was considered sacred by Englishmen
the home. The laws of our country would not allow evi-
dence to be taken of what was going on in the privacy of
home. It was also discovered that children were less pro-
tected in England than in most other civilized countries. In
1889 a bill was passed through Parliament which has been
rightly termed the Children's Charter. Aid committees have
been formed in most of the large towns throughout the king-
dom ; and in every centre the consciences of men and women
have been stirred in behalf of the sufferings of oppressed
children. There is no need here to speak of the method and
organization of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Children. We owe the idea of it to the United States, who
owe to us the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals. May God help us to help each other in all such
works of fellowship with Him !

The last year or two there has been raised an outcry of
" What have the Churches been doing for the poor ? " This
is what the Churches have been doing through women for
children. It may be safely assumed that most of the women
who have given themselves to good works have been actuated
by religious motives. Many of them have deliberately and
consciously sought to tread in the footsteps of their Lord.
Those who raise the sneering cry know little of the condition
of life in large towns fifty years ago. Under the cry of the
drunkard, the loafer, the unemployed, there could be heard
the still more bitter and heart-rending wail of children, for
whom few men cared. They lived the life of beasts, without
the beasts' immunity from mental griefs. Their young hearts
looked forward with terror to to-morrow, and looked back
with trembling on the sufferings of yesterday. At least the
children have been lifted up out of the worst slime of the
pit. There is scarcely a want that has not had some pro-
vision made for its removal. And this has been done mainly
by the women of the Churches ; not one Church more than
another. The true woman's heart knows nothing of sect
when a child is put into her arms.

12 Woman 's Mission.

What the nation will be thirty years hence depends chiefly
on what the children of the present decade are. The world
makes its progress on the little feet of childhood. That the
work of women for children should ever cease is impossible ;
but it is more than work for children, it is work for the
fatherland, for humanity, for God.



THE saying that to all questions there are more than one
side more than one point of view from which they can be
considered is of course a truism. And in nothing is it more
realized than in dealing with any of our great social evils.
In approaching such from one side alone the difficulties and
objections are sure to obtrude themselves ; the tares grow
apace with the wheat, the apparently inevitable mischief often
threatens to overshadow the good we hope to do. All
benevolent enterprise, all schemes for social improvement
bristle with probable, and far more than probable, dangers
and harmful results.

Yet that this is so is no reason for letting, not " well," but
" ill " alone, for sitting with our hands before us and consoling
ourselves when certain sad facts of suffering and misery are
forced upon us with the undoubtedly true, but often sorely
misinterpreted and misapplied, dicta that " the innocent must
suffer for the guilty ; " that " the poor must be always with
us." The hearts of even the most rigid theorists are often
better than their creeds ; the instincts and intuitions of human
nature are often truer than we know. Let it be proclaimed
on the house-tops that want and degradation are the lawful
results of thriftlessness and intemperance, that wherever there
is abnormal suffering it has been somebody's fault, that till
starvation stares them in the face in the shape of their half-
naked and half-dying children, vicious and improvident
parents will never take heed to their ways let all this be

14 Woman's Mission.

proclaimed and reproclaimed, as indeed it is and should be,
still we we women above all cannot let "the little ones"
suffer without some effort for their relief. At the sight of
their piteous case all the more piteous that they themselves
are often so unconscious of its being so, accepting with the
strange touching resignation of childhood, their woes as a
" must be " because they are at the sight, all theories are
thrown to the winds, " philosophy " melts into tears, tears of
honest indignation as well as pity, which, thank God, bear
fruit in earnest and hearty action.

And surely this is as it should be ? Is it not often well
to work at and from both ends ? Let us punish with the
sternest severity not only tangible cruelty on the part of the
parents and guardians of our poor children, but the neglect
or indifference almost as fearful in their consequences ; let us
instruct and enlighten by every means in our power the
dense and stupid ignorance of their elders, which is often
the cause of childish misery ; let us get at the parents when-
ever and as much as we can, pointing out and emphasizing
in every conceivable way the results of their misdoing,
awakening by all possible appeal the spark of conscious
responsibility for the beings they have brought into existence,
more often dormant than utterly extinguished by their own
dull lives and constant struggle let us do all these things
and more. And let us say by way of parenthesis while
doing them, let us not fall into the mistake of imagining that
all or most children, even in poverty-stricken homes, are
uncared for, or that all parents among the poor stand in
need of reform. That would be a tremendous error.

But, I repeat, while doing all this, the other side remains
while punishing, instructing, awakening the grown men and
women, the children stand by with their little white faces,
the children who are growing up to be in their turn, and all
too soon, parents themselves. The innocent, as we may hope
they mostly are, must suffer for the guilty, it is true; but
woe to him by whom cometh the offence of not doing all
that can be done for them while they are innocent, impres-
sionable, malleable, grateful ; so touchingly patient, so even
more touchingly merry; in a word, take them in the mass
so open to good and healthful influences.

For the Little Ones "Food, Fun, and Fresh Air." 15

What can we do for them ? What are we women of
England doing for these little ones of ours, doubly ours
surely as Christians, for are they not in a very special sense
His who set a child in the midst of His hearers, as in much,
a type of what they should be themselves ? It was indeed
He who said the poor should be always with us, and He
encouraged no short-sighted pity for their condition as poor.
Rather, on the contrary, did He over and over again hold
up the case of the poor and lowly as far less to be dreaded
than that of the rich and great, with the insidious temptations
inseparable from wealth and grandeur. But there is, it seems
to me, a natural, a so-to-speak reasonable poverty to which we
must believe He referred He, Himself the poor Carpenter
of Nazareth as part of the Divine order for humanity ; and
there are monstrous developments of this which we cannot
but call evil and abnormal. Here in this huge and in some
ways awful London, as in other great cities in lesser degree
throughout our whole empire, things have got all wrong :
the rich are too few, the poor too terribly many. What the
future of it all will be, how, as is still prophesied by the
hopeful, the blundering old world will, somehow or other,
to some extent right itself again, is hidden from us in
mysterious and sometimes it seems appalling darkness.
There are many prophets of evil, but there are also wise
and far-seeing among us who allow no cause for despair.
And as in time of war special and often splendid qualities
are called forth by the very greatness of the emergency, may
we not take it as one of the hopeful signs of the times that
all thoughtful men and women are daily awaking more and
more to the vastness of the " wrongs " among us, to the
necessity of well-considered and steady effort towards their
right-setting ? And much is being done.

Of the greater and one might say national work for the
children of our poor it is not within my province to speak.
The wisest and keenest minds are grappling with this
realizing that even were we regardless of the welfare of the
young for their own sake they are the men and women
of the near future. All we can do for the bud will amply
repay us in the flower. The higher the level to which we
can raise our boys and girls the better for our country and

1 6 Woman's Mission.

for the world ; the healthier we can make them, morally
and physically, the more ground for hope.

But besides the great concerns of schools, hospitals,
reformatories, and refuges for the absolutely destitute our
poor waifs and strays other, more modest and less known
work is being done ; and about this it is my pleasant task to
write something, though but very superficially. For a great
part of this work has been inaugurated and is carried out by
the women of Great Britain, and it is work which is capable
of almost endless increase and improvement ; work which,
as I shall endeavour to explain in fuller detail, may be
taken part in and helped on in some way by almost every
well-to-do family among us, necessitating in many cases
small outlay and small responsibility ; good work, which is
perhaps best done by private enterprise alone, unburdened
by committees, reports, and the cumbrous though unavoidable
machinery accompanying the organization and direction of
great institutions.

It may be well to separate my subject into three divisions.
In a certain sense it may all be classed as "supplementary
work," for it does not deal with the absolutely destitute and
starving, nor with the entirely neglected and uncared for.
And as in childhood, even more than in maturer life, human
beings are more conscious of their existence as bodies with
souls than as " souls with bodies " the ideal state to which
a great thinker would fain have us attain let us begin with
the efforts now making, and that have for many years been
successfully carried on, to supplement the scanty and
insufficient nourishment which is all that scores and hundreds
of poor though not homeless children have to look to as
their daily bread, before we pass to the second and perhaps
more interesting part of my story ; the endeavours in
various directions to bring some brightness into the lives of
the young of our poorer classes, to teach them to be happy
in simple and legitimate ways, to implant in them some
taste for, some idea of pure and refined pleasures. For the
very suggestion of such bears fruit : to know that these
sources of happiness do exist, does good. To parody the
old quotation which would not be so hackneyed if it were
not so true, if it be " better to have loved and lost than never

For the Little Ones " Food, Fun, and Fresh Air" 17

to have loved at all," surely to have spent some merry evenings
in innocent amusement, to have seen the green fields and the
primroses but once in a child life, is better than to have no
conception of any play but coarse romping in the streets, no
notion of any landscape but that of the man-made town !

And if innocent and lawful recreations are not provided,
their place is sure to be usurped by evil ones : it is in the
empty, unstocked garden that the poisonous weeds flourish.
Men and women, boys and girls still more, struggle sorely
to be happy ; something to admire, to interest, to attract,
the young must have, and the half-unconscious yearning for
this lasts long. The love of beauty, even though distorted
so as to be scarcely recognizable, dies very hard in even the
most degraded.

I am wandering from our hungry children, but we must
keep them waiting a moment longer while I make one other
preliminary remark which seems to me of great importance.
It is this I believe that one of the most distinctly happy
effects of the kind of benevolent effort which we are
considering is that it brings home so plainly to the children
the fact that among their superiors in the social scale, above
all among " ladies," there are those that do care for them.
The drawing closer together of the classes, the inspiring the
poor with confidence in the sympathy of the rich, are among
the greatest goods that can be done to both. And towards
children it comes so easily to be friendly and affectionate.
Shyness and scores of " big people " are consumed with
shyness when they come in contact with any class but their
own melts before their hearty simplicity, their absence of
self-consciousness. A rather grimy little mouth held up to
"kiss the lady" may not be precisely tempting, but it is
irresistible ; Tommy's " My eye, ain't it jolly ? " if not
exactly a graceful and elegant acknowledgment of his slice
of Christmas pudding, comes from his heart and goes to
yours. And when two hearts meet is not half or all the
battle won ?

And Tommy and even the smutty baby don't always
forget. Some seed takes root in childish memories and
grows there and bears fruit, and if the first tender sprout be
cared for and watered and encouraged, who can say to what


1 8 Woman s Mission.

grandeur and beauty it may not attain, nor how many
happy "birds of Heaven" may "find lodging under its
shadow " ?

" Hungry " is scarcely the word by which to describe the
poor, insufficiently nourished mites in whose behalf the first
good work I have to notice was inaugurated. There is
something hearty and healthy in the expression, which makes
us think of rosy cheeks and bright eyes round the breakfast-
table or of merry little feet trotting home to the pleasant
nursery tea. The children of the poor of the very poor
are seldom " hungry " in this cheery way. " Half-starved "
better describes their chronic condition. One of the saddest
things at a poor children's treat in a large town especially
is that so many among them eat so little. They are so
accustomed, so inured to not having enough, that when a
plentiful meal is put before them they cannot readily do
justice to it ; in many cases they are always passively
enduring the first stages of the suffering of which the acute
form is starvation.

It was in the year 1863 that a short article in Punch,
headed "Dinners for Poor Children Wanted," drew the
attention of some benevolent women, already much interested
in Ragged School and other similar work, to the miserably
ill-fed condition of many of the little pupils at the schools
in New Tothill Street, Westminster. The teachers of these
schools, and those of others as well, were aware of the sad
state of matters, often finding it impossible to make any way
with their poor scholars, whose minds could scarcely be
expected to take in instruction when their bodies were almost
starving. And efforts had been made by the teachers from
time to time to procure a little food for the children to
supplement the miserable fare which was all they could get
at their own homes.

But to be effectual, such assistance requires to be organized
and systematic. Thanks to the leaders in this movement
the late Baroness Mayer de Rothschild and her sister the
year 1864 saw established a sensible and practical scheme for
providing one good dinner a fortnight to fifty of the most
needy among the children at these schools.

One good meal in a fortnight ! It does not sound very

For the Little Ones "Food, Fun, and Fresh Air." 19

much to us, who are in distress and anxiety if our children
pass half a day with less than their usual nourishment. But
practically it has been found to mean a good deal. For the
poor little people's improved condition and appearance soon
rewarded their benefactors, and led to other kindly persons
interesting themselves in this simple and sensible charity ;
which thus rapidly extended and grew. By the end of 1865
it was found that over three thousand dinners had been given
at these same New Tothill Street Schools. Then followed
a successful appeal in the Times, and a large meeting at the
house of the late Lord Mount Temple, resulting in the formal
inauguration under the presidency of the father of so many
philanthropic schemes, the late well-known Lord Shaffcesbury,
of "The Destitute Children's Dinner Society." And under
this name the society still exists, though so immensely
enlarged that it is difficult to recognize as the same which
sprang from the modest beginning of twenty-five weekly
dinners in one school, a good work which in 1891 provided
no less than 290,476 dinners in fifty-five dining-rooms in
various parts of London.

The causes of the success of this good work initiated,
as I have said, by two or three women at their own cost are
not far to seek. It was sorely needed, and it has been carried
out on sensible and practical lines. The rules are few and
simple ; care being taken that the great danger always to
be apprehended in charitable schemes, that of pauperizing
those whom it was meant to benefit, is guarded against as
thoroughly as possible, by strict inquiry into the real need
of the children admitted to the dinners, and by charging a
small sum, at first a penny, now only a halfpenny, for the
plateful of good honest " Irish stew," composed of beef or
mutton, potatoes, barley or rice, and onions, accompanied by
a substantial slice of bread. The cooking, laying of the table,
washing up, etc., are done by a few of the elder school-girls
in turn, under proper superintendence ; thus benefiting the
young cooks as well as those for whom they work. Clean
hands and faces, orderly manners at table, are insisted upon ;
grace is sung by the children before and after the meal, thus
utilizing the charity as a moral influence for good as well as
a material benefit Some idea of its present extent may be

2O Woman s Mission.

better arrived at, by mentioning the figures to which the
children's halfpence now amount. In 1890 the sum thus paid
in fifty-nine dining-rooms came to 606 i8s. 7^.; 1891 to
^588 i6s. $\d. ; these being met respectively by grants from
the society of 1377 and 1274.

On the death of Lord Shaftesbury the presidency of the
work reverted to woman's hands, those of Lady Burdett-
Coutts ; one of its warmest and most liberal supporters. And
this parent society has now to boast of several others, in
some cases off-shoots from itself, in some, independent imita-
tors working on similar lines, both in London and in various
other places throughout the country, notably in the large
provincial towns where the same sad shadows of want and
need dog the footsteps of great material enterprise.

Of these perhaps the first to be noticed are the dining-
rooms for children in connection with the Board Schools,
which are organized on much the same lines as the " Destitute
Children's dinners " which we have been considering in some
detail. And though these Board School free dinners were
not originated, as were their precursors, by women, it is in-
variably the lady members of the Board, and other women
helpers, who chiefly manage and carry them on.

The Mildmay Institutions also provide dinners for boys
and girls during the winter, in connection with the parent
society, to the extent of sixty or seventy a day.

Then there are the free or rather penny dinners during
the winter months, in connection with various Jewish schools
at Stepney, Sandys Row, etc. These are, I think, without
exception, dependent upon and under the charge of ladies.
Mrs. Adler, the President of this work at Sandys Row, was
one of the first to take up the idea. At the present moment
under her management, 1400 dinners of Irish stew or sub-

Online LibraryAngela Georgina Burdett-CouttsWoman's mission; a series of congress papers on the philanthropic work of women, by eminent writers → online text (page 3 of 49)