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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The Ladies' Association for the Care of Friendless Girls
differs from the two societies with which we have last dealt
in that, whilst they insist upon unblemished reputation as a
sine qud non of membership, it devotes itself with special zeal
to helping those upon whom the world is somewhat inclined
to look askance. It owes its origin to a sort of crusade on
behalf of the young which Miss Ellice Hopkins carried on for
some years. She travelled about from town to town trying
to arouse active sympathy for girls. The direct outcome of
her appeals was that, in many towns, ladies banded them-
selves together to take care of the friendless. There are now
one hundred and twenty of these associations, all perfectly
autonomous, all working out their salvation in their own way.
The advantage of this arrangement is that an association
can adapt itself to the special needs of its own district. Thus
some devote themselves to temperance work ; others to
educational ; others, again, to warding off starvation from
their charges. They all unite, however, in trying to remove
girls from dangerous surroundings, and putting them in the
way of earning an honest livelihood. The members regularly
visit workshops, lodging-houses of the worst kind, police-
courts, all the places in fact where there is a chance of coming
across young lives in danger of shipwreck. These ladies
have proved themselves doughty champions, and have waged

Women's Work for the Welfare of Girls. 43

ruthless warfare against unjust employers and drunken
vicious parents. Many are the girls they have rescued from
"sweating dens ;" many, too, from home surroundings just as
degrading. They have industrial schools and refuges in
which they place their protigtes until some of the taint of
evil example can be eradicated. Here they are carefully
trained and then provided with employment. There are
to-day in our Colonies numbers of young women leading
happy useful lives, who owe their rescue from the very Slough
of Despond to the efforts of the Ladies' Association.

In addition to these four great societies, every religious
community has its own organizations for helping girls. The
Church of England has sixteen sisterhoods, all of which, with
the deaconesses at their head, devote themselves more or
less to this work. The Roman Catholics are particularly
rich in homes and refuges. The Presbyterians have formed
Bands of Promise, Guilds, and Clubs, that they may the more
effectually watch over their girls ; and the Wesleyan Metho-
dists have established for theirs the Order of the Sisters of
the People. These Sisters try to bring good influences to
bear on the young women who live in the East End. They
invite them to spend their evenings in the home ; and, by
kindly hospitality and friendliness, strive to awaken amongst
them a sense of decency and order. They teach them how
to make and mend clothes, try to find employment for them,
and admit those who are quite destitute into their refuge.
Convinced that a woman's true vocation is that of a wife, the
Sisters are now devising means for bringing their prot/gtes,
under proper chaperonage, into friendly intercourse with
suitable partis. Mrs. Bramwell Booth and Miss Meredith
Browne are doing most valuable work, on similar lines,
amongst factory girls. The Jews, too, show peculiar tender-
ness and wisdom in the way they take care of the young.
An English Jewess, until she is eighteen years old, is more
or less under the surveillance of a committee of ladies, to
whom she may apply at any time for advice or help. This
committee feeds the hungry, clothes the needy, and sees that
all who are willing to work are put in the way of employ-
ment. The Jewish working guilds are a most useful insti-

44 Woman s Mission.

tution, and in the training-rooms in connection with them,
girls have every opportunity of learning a lucrative calling.
There are free evening classes, too, in which cooking, dress-
making, singing, and, strange to say, elocution are taught.
The Ladies' Committee manages two Homes for young
Jewesses, and several Convalescent Homes. Every Sunday
evening large tea-parties are given, in which ladies from the
West End play the hostess to working girls down East.
Concerts and other amusements are provided for them ; and,
from time to time, Lady Rothschild invites them to a ball.

Most of the Missions, as the St. George's Yard and the
Latymer Road, have branches, managed by ladies, for helping
girls ; others again, as the Theatrical and the Flower Girls'
Missions, are chiefly for their benefit. The Flower Girls'
Mission was started by a Clerkenwell workman named Groom,
who, when little more than a boy, began to act as the special
evangelist of the flower-sellers. Every morning by daybreak
he was in the flower-market, advising and exhorting these
girls, and acting as peace-maker among them. He opened
a room for them to rest in when their work was done ; and
persuaded ladies to help him to teach them, in the evening,
to read, write, and sew, and generally civilize them. The life
these girls lead is one of great hardship. They must tramp
about in the street the whole day long, haunted, too, as often
as not, by the knowledge that their chance of supper and a
bed at night depends on their selling their flowers. At the
best of times, even when trade is brisk, they are at the mercy
of the veriest chance : a high wind, a sharp frost, or sudden
heat, may any day destroy their whole stock-in-trade, and
thus bring them face to face with starvation. In the hope of
rendering the existence of the younger among them less
precarious, the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, in 1879, founded
her Flower Girls' Brigade. She enrolled the flower-sellers,
between the ages of thirteen and fifteen, in a regular com-
pany, and placed them under the special protection of the
police. She arranged that, instead of wandering about the
streets with their wares, they should have fixed stations where
they could display them for sale without fear of molestation.
Then, to give stability to their trade, the Baroness tried to
induce ladies to purchase flowers of them on fixed days.

Women s Work for the Welfare of Girls. 45

This attempt to place their industry on a regular footing led
to some curious experiences ; for the girls, although scrupu-
lously honest as a rule, have a business code of their own.
No arguments could convince them that their merchandise,
when once sold, was no longer theirs, but the purchaser's.
Thus, if one of them whilst en route to deliver flowers selected
by some lady, with great care perhaps, had the chance of
selling them at a higher price, she promptly did so, return-
ing in triumph to head-quarters to claim praise for her 'cute-
ness. It was no unusual thing for customers, who had ordered
table decorations for some special occasion, to receive at the
last moment, instead of their roses and lilies, a message to
the effect that they couldn't have any flowers that night, but
should have some real beauties the next morning ! That ladies
should prefer having flowers one day rather than another,
was quite incomprehensible to these naive little traders.

The Brigade proved an inestimable benefit to those for
whom it was instituted ; still, it soon became apparent that
flower-selling, particularly during the winter, was too un-
certain a calling to be quite suitable for young girls. The
Baroness Burdett-Coutts, therefore, for the sake of providing
her brigade with regular employment, started an artificial
flower factory. Here, under careful training, many of the
girls have developed quite a genius for their craft. Having
passed all their days amongst natural flowers, they seem to
know by instinct what to strive for in making artificial ones.
They literally delight in their work, and lavish care and
attention on the delicate trifles they manufacture. As all
the girls, no matter how incapable, receive regular wages, the
factory has been a somewhat costly experiment ; but it has
proved a great success. The flowers made there are sent to
all parts of the world ; some have even made their way to
the World's Fair at Chicago. Attached to the factory is a
home, where these little work-people are taught to clean,
cook, and generally play the housewife. Such of them as
show more taste for this work than for flower-making, are
trained as servants, and provided with situations. Some
eight hundred girls have already passed through the factory,
and of these 95 per cent, are "doing well," i.e. are respectable
women, earning an honest livelihood, and making the world

46 Woman s Mission.

the brighter and the better for their presence. The Brigade,
the Flower Girls' Guild, and the Mission are now all united ;
and the whole work is carried on under the superintendence
of Mr. Groom.

The flower-sellers, as other impecunious traders, derive
no small benefit from the Emily Loan Fund, instituted by
the late Lord Shaftesbury in memory of his wife. In winter,
when flowers are scarce, the managers of the fund lend out
to these girls potato-ovens, coffee-stalls, wheelbarrows, etc.,
together with some little stock-in-trade. The borrowers pay a
weekly sum for the use of these things, which, in time, become
their own property. Money too, from five shillings to twenty
shillings, is advanced to those who, by some unexpected turn
in Fortune's wheel, find themselves destitute. Trifling in
amount as these loans are, they set on her feet many a poor
girl, who is down, perhaps, through no fault of her own.
Penniless, she can only drift to the workhouse or the river :
with twenty shillings in hand, she is a capitalist, endless pos-
sibilities lying before her. These loans are regarded by
lenders and borrowers alike as debts of honour, and are
almost invariably repaid most punctiliously. The very
roughest of our floating population would hoot the man or
woman who ventured to defraud the Emily Loan Fund.

The Homes for Working Girls, which are now to be found
in all our great industrial centres, are most valuable insti-
tutions. The inmates are provided with food and lodging
at cost price, and a resident lady superintendent tries to
make their lives pleasant. Then there are the Brabazon
Homes of Rest for shop-girls, three hundred training homes
for servants, and colonies of cottage homes, in all of which
good work for girls is being done. A special interest is
attached to St. Chad's Home, at Leeds, owing to the class
of girls received there. They are the very waifs and strays
of society, the deformed, the rough, the utterly forsaken, yet
the great majority of them in the end turn out well. They
are put through a regular course of training, and then, those
who are suitable are sent to the colonies, whilst the rest
remain at St. Chad's and work in the knitting factory.

Benevolence, in its zeal for the welfare of girls, assumes

Women's Work for the Welfare of Girls. 47

divers forms. The National Housewifery Association, and
the Guild of Aid to Home Duties, make great efforts to train
them to be good housewives ; and an interesting experiment
for the same purpose is being tried at Richmond. The most
successful Housewifery School in the kingdom, however, is
that established by Mrs. Elder at Govan. There some
hundreds of girls, who during the day work in factories,
are in the evening fitted for their future duties as mothers
of families. They are taught the simple laws of hygiene,
and are shown how to clean, wash, make clothes, and, above
all, cook. Every Saturday evening, numbers of girls and
women take the materials for their Sunday dinners to the
school, and cook them under the supervision of a skilful
teacher. All the things made are of the most inexpensive
kind, depending for their value on careful seasoning and
handling; for the object of the school is to teach how to
provide palatable nutritious food at the least possible cost.
What Mrs. Elder is doing for cookery, Lady Brooke does
for needlework. In her village schools girls are trained to
be the veriest Penelopes. As for the educational advantages
within the reach of working girls, of these there is now
neither end nor limit. A special society directs their technical
training; whilst at women's colleges, mechanics' institutes,
Polytechnics, continuation classes, extension lectures, and
evening clubs, they are taught whatever they wish to learn,
and practically for nothing. There are agencies at work to
awake them to the importance of physical culture, and pro-
vide them with gymnasia and swimming baths. Some devoted
ladies correspond with girls ; others, in the hope of raising
their taste, conduct them by twos and threes to picture-
galleries and museums. Then the Society for the Protection
of Women and Children guards them from injustice; whilst
the Vigilance Society is always on the alert to bring down
vengeance on those who do them harm.

In spite, however, of all that is done, some girls "go
wrong;" for human nature is the same in all ranks, and
maids have just as keen a love of pleasure and fine clothes
as their mistresses. To one a paltry little brooch proves an
irresistible temptation ; to another, the chance of excitement ;
whilst numbers fall through sheer ignorance of the realities

48 Woman s Mission.

of life. No work that women do is better worth doing than
that of rescuing those who are at " the parting of the ways," or
have taken perhaps a step to the left. First offenders, as
they are called, stand terribly in need of womanly sympathy,
womanly help. In England alone there are more than a
hundred homes in which girls, convicted of a first offence,
are given the chance of redeeming their characters. The
best known of these is that established by Miss Neave,
Elizabeth Fry's devoted fellow-worker. In the Trewint
and the Princess Louise Industrial Homes, and many of the
industrial schools, girls are taken charge of, whom, though
criminal, magistrates are loth to send to prison. Miss Steer,
too, has, in connection with her Bridge of Hope, homes for
girls who are exposed to special danger owing to their
surroundings. She has a most hopeful tale to tell of the
way her protegees, when once removed from evil influences,
turn instinctively to good. An admirable arrangement
which has been in force for some years in Birmingham, is
gradually being adopted in many of our large towns. A
number of ladies appointed by the magistrates visit the
prisons in turn every morning, and have private interviews
with the women and girls who are to appear before the
Bench. These ladies hear the prisoners' own account of
the affair that has brought them into trouble ; accompany
them into court ; urge in their favour any circonstances
attenuantes which may exist; and, in the case of first
offenders, often induce the magistrates to hand the girls over
to their keeping rather than send them to prison. When
this is done, they place their charges in training homes,
where they are carefully prepared for a fresh start in life.

In every part of the world much noble work of true
benevolence is being done by women for the sake of their
younger and poorer sisters ; but the need is great, and much
still remains to be accomplished. There must be no resting
on oars, in England or elsewhere, until life has been made for
working girls as keenly interesting and as secure as pleasant,
perhaps, it can never be as it now is for the daughters of
the richer members of our community. How far we are
to-day from this millenium, few realize but those whose work
lies amongst the poor.

( 49 )


THE establishment of Clubs for Working Girls is compara-
tively a new idea, but it has been found so successful that
the growth of these institutions in England has been quite
enormous, and many thousands of girls are now brought
under the influence of the various organizations that are
established for Clubs and Evening Homes. They are not
all worked in the same way, and the different societies have
mostly endeavoured to reach different classes of working
people. We may reckon that there are eight organizations
at work for this purpose

1. The clubs for working girls which are carried on with
rules more or less similar to those of clubs for working men.
These are open every evening, and have regular paid or
unpaid officials connected with them.

2. There are what are called Evening Homes for Girls.
These are chiefly to be found in Nottingham, and have no
regular superintendent; but ladies arrange to take charge of
them on different evenings in the week.

3. The lodges of the Girls' Friendly Society, an im-
mense organization all over England, have been established
in almost all large towns. These are open mostly every
evening for the benefit of the girls who belong to the Girls'
Friendly Society.

4. The Young Women's Help Society, a very large
organization which mainly benefits factory hands.

5. The Young Women's Christian Association, which has
branches not only in England but all over the world.

6. The Recreative Evenings Association, founded for


50 Woman's Mission.

neighbourhoods where club-buildings cannot be had, and where
the Board Schools are made use of.

7. There is the Factory Helpers' Union, which endeavours
to reach quite the lowest of factory workers. It is computed
that this union has in London about four thousand girls under
its supervision.

8. Lastly, there are the numerous Parochial or Congre-
gational Guilds of Girls, whose meetings may be but once or
twice a week. These meetings bring the members of the
church or chapel under the direct influence of ladies.

Most of the clubs are worked by a paid superintendent,
who is always present at the meetings, and is assisted by
a committee of working girls. How a club is worked may
be shown by explaining the organization of the Soho Club
for Working Girls, which was the first established in England ;
in 1880. Here there is a council of ladies and gentlemen,
who meet from time to time to decide on matters respecting
the management of the club, and to arrange for the girls'
country holidays and country excursions, as well as for
classes, teachers, and recreations. It is the duty of the
superintendent to be present every evening to receive the fees
of the members, and to take down the names of those attend-
ing the class. On going into the club the members write their
names in a book, from which the superintendent is able to
know who has been present on any occasion, and how many
attendances each has made. This record of attendance is
much valued by the members, who like it to be known when
they have been present in the club. The girls' committee
is elected annually in December by ballot voting of all the
members. Their duty is to see that the class-rooms are
ready, and that the teachers are attended to ; and they also
manage the refreshment bar, keeping an account of receipts
and expenditure. They have monthly soirees to which mem-
bers are allowed to bring their friends, and the committee
have to provide refreshments and arrange for singing and
dancing during the evening. They are also expected to
receive and welcome new members, or ladies who may visit
the club. The present superintendent became a member of
the club when it was started thirteen years ago. She and the
committee work well together, consulting upon any suggested

Clubs for Working Girls. 5 1

change that may be beneficial to the members. One of the
yearly Christmas parties for the new and younger members
is managed entirely by this committee, which is composed
chiefly of the older members, to whom the young ones
naturally look up. Wherever a girls' committee has been
formed in a club it has always been found to work bene-
ficially. The ladies of the council, in turn, take charge
of the club for one month, looking through the books,
visiting the homes of new members, and arranging for the
soirees and musical evenings of their month of office.

Classes are held in almost all the clubs, and by their good
organization and the attendance of members the success of
the club is best shown. The members soon weary of amuse-
ments only ; it is the classes which give interest and life
to the club. The favourite is the singing class. At this
there is generally a large attendance ; and the interest of the
members is stimulated by a competition amongst the choirs
of the London Girls' Club Union, held once a year at the
Inner Temple Hall, when a cantata is sung by all the choirs,
each also singing a competitive piece. At the close of the
competition the choirs are ranked according to their merit,
and the first on the list receives a challenge picture which
is held for one year.

Another class much liked is that for musical drill. This
has a very beneficial effect upon the rougher girls, as it teaches
them punctuality, discipline, and order. In this also there
is an annual competition, and a challenge shield is given to
the successful club. .

Dressmaking, plain needlework, cutting-out, art needle-
work, are all much cared for. Specimens of some art needle-
work done in the Soho Club have, by the kindness of the
Baroness Burdett-Coutts, been sent to Chicago. Of these
a banner has been embroidered by a girl who works at Cross
and Black well's factory, and who never used her needle after
she left school until she joined the class. This piece of
work will show the proficiency which may be reached by
factory hands under good instructors. Almost all the teachers
of the classes are voluntary. Many of them may be trained
teachers, but they give their spare time in this way to help
the poorer girls. Cooking is a very favourite class, and much

52 Woman 's Mission.

valued by those who are thinking of making a home for

Evening schools are established in many clubs, but the
necessity for them has diminished since Board schools have
had the power of compelling attendance ; and the girls have
mostly reached the higher standards before joining the clubs.
The more advanced classes are not much cared for, unless
the teacher be one who will make a study so interesting that
it cannot fail to attract. In the Soho Club we have had
classes in English literature, English history, and the story
of Greek heroines ; they have been very much appreciated,
and have greatly promoted the culture of working girls, while
adding to their interest in and enjoyment of life.

The amusements of the clubs differ according to the ideas
of the different managers. In some cases dancing is not
allowed, and the recreation will consist of games and singing.
In the Soho Club dancing has always been considered very
beneficial to the members, and Friday evening is devoted to
that amusement. Concerts and little dramatic performances
are often arranged, and we hear of bazaars and sales being
got up by the members themselves. To a great extent, how-
ever, the recreative enjoyment simply consists in the meeting
of friends in a well-lighted room, where rest can be had
amidst pleasant surroundings after the long hours of work.
Different games are always going on, bagatelle, reversi,
draughts, halma, and "happy families."

Their country excursions, or country holidays, are the club
girls' greatest pleasure. The trips to the country are chiefly
on the Bank holidays, at Easter, Whitsuntide, and in August,
when almost all clubs arrange to take their girls out and give
them a pleasant and wholesome day away from the smoke
and noise of the town. Better still is it when the girls can
have their one, two, or three weeks' holiday in the autumn.
Some few clubs have homes to which they send their girls ;
but generally the girls are distributed in parties of two or
three in different parts of England it may be in homes of
rest arranged for this purpose, or in cottages and farmhouses
where the inmates are willing to receive lodgers at that time.
Many of our girls in Soho can recall enchanting visits to the
friends of the club some as far away as the mountains in

Clubs for Working Girls. 53

Cumberland. These visits to country houses, so happy while
they lasted, have had a very beneficial influence in our club.
On two occasions, sixteen of our members, with one of the
ladies, have been invited to spend three days in a country
house ; at other times some have gone with a lady for three
days or a week to the seaside, and their enjoyment of the
freedom and the beauty of Nature is delightful to witness.
There are many work-girls who get no holiday in the year
except the Bank holidays ; for them, visits are arranged

Online LibraryAngela Georgina Burdett-CouttsWoman's mission; a series of congress papers on the philanthropic work of women, by eminent writers → online text (page 6 of 49)