Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts.

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

. (page 9 of 49)
Online LibraryAngela Georgina Burdett-CouttsWoman's mission; a series of congress papers on the philanthropic work of women, by eminent writers → online text (page 9 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of three shillings, and each vice-president two and sixpence ;
but " associates " only contribute their work. The Princess
Beatrice is president also of the Isle of Wight Needlework
Guild, which was started in the autumn of 1889. A guild
which does not ask for any contributions in money is Lady
Melville's North St. Pancras Working Guild. Originated by
herself, its operation is confined to a comparatively small
locality ; but acquaintance with its working assures us that
though the association is less imposing than many others,
it yet covers a large area of usefulness.

Another very useful although comparatively small asso-
ciation is the Diocese of Ripon Ladies' Needlework Guild,
founded in connection with the Clothing Guild for Poor Clergy
by Mrs. Boyd Carpenter, who felt that although cast-off outer
garments might still be acceptable to the over-pressed wives
of the clergy, the same could hardly be said of underclothing.
Therefore she invited her friends to become members of this

Working Guilds and Work Societies. 77

Needlework Guild, in order to supply new underclothing for
distribution among the clergy of the diocese.

The Guernsey Society for Supplying Needlework to the
Respectable Poor was started seven years ago. The poor
receive parcels of unmade work, and on presenting the gar-
ments finished receive payment for them, the object of the
society being to supply women of good character with needle-
work in their homes during the winter months.

The Alford Needlework Association in Buckingham
Palace Road, founded by the late Lady Marian Alford in
1884, and now under the direction of the Earl Brownlow, had
two objects in view at its foundation, objects which have
never been lost sight of. Lady Alford and the ladies
associated with her proposed to make needlework a recog-
nized trade, and to enlarge the circle of trained needlewomen
so as to enable them to get a higher rate of wages. The
second object was to divide these trained needlewomen into
classes. The workrooms are divided out into three depart-
ments. The first is occupied by sailors' and soldiers' widows
and daughters, who work chiefly at army and navy clothing ;
the second is occupied by workwomen of a higher standard,
who undertake the making of trousseaux, Indian outfits, and
work of a similar nature ; while in the third department
ladies in reduced circumstances toil at any kind of plain or
artistic needlework with which they are familiar. Attached
to this institution is a registry office which, for a small fee,
supplies dressmakers and needlewomen by the day.

The latest of all these institutions is the Theatrical
Ladies' Guild. It seems that the idea of this guild was
thrown into shape by three or four compassionate and warm-
hearted members of the dramatic profession, moved by a
knowledge of the destitution in which some poor members
find themselves when they are about to become mothers.
A scheme was thereupon set afloat by Mrs. C. L. Carson,
with the design of getting together such articles of clothing
as are needed at such times ; and parcels of these (with bed-
linen) are despatched whenever they are wanted. Upon the
return of this first parcel, another is sent as a gift : this
parcel consists of a complete set of short-clothes for the
baby. The appeal for help to start the guild was speedily

7 8 Woman's Mission.

responded to, and it is now in a very thriving condition and
doing a most useful work.

Before closing this little paper I feel that I ought to
make some allusion to bazaars, which have earned from time
to time large sums of money for good causes. These bazaars
could not have been carried out had not an infinite amount
of thought and personal labour been bestowed on them by
a great number of energetic and charitably minded ladies ;
who, though they may have only formed themselves into
Guilds for the nonce, have laboured quite as faithfully and
benevolently as the members of more lasting Working Ladies'
guilds. The first bazaar of any note was held long ago at
York ; and, if I mistake not, the ladies who took part in
it were rather bitterly reproached for turning themselves into
temporary shopkeepers, even for sweet charity's sake, and
met with a good deal of opposition. A little time after,
there was a Dickens Bazaar in London, at which all the fair
stall-holders dressed as some Dickens' character ; and from
that time to this bazaars have always held their own.

And then we should be " real ungrateful," as Americans
would say, if, while speaking of Ladies' Guilds, we neglected
to draw public attention to the ready help accorded to many
a benevolent undertaking by the artistes singers, actresses,
reciters, of all nationalities who foregather in London.
They are ever willing to give their services at concerts,
organized now for one charity and now for another ; and
they are as untiring in their endeavours to please on these
occasions as though a handsome cheque awaited them at the
end of the performance.

( 79 )


" Life hath no dim and lowly spot
That doth not in her sunshine share."


"THERE is no new thing under the sun," and certainly
woman's work on behalf of the poor and suffering is no new
thing. From the earliest ages, so far as human history goes,
woman, under the most adverse circumstances, has ever been
associated with deeds of charity and kindness. As Dryden
sings of one

" Such multitudes she fed, she clothed, she nurst,
That she herself might fear her wanting first.
Of her five talents, other five she made."

Hence, in the modern 'revival of benevolence and philanthropic
activity, woman has borne her full share. Elizabeth Fry and
Florence Nightingale were but pioneers, in whose footsteps
have gladly trod thousands whose names, unknown to public
fame, have yet been a very perfume amongst the afflicted and
forsaken. Wherever sorrow, suffering, or sickness is found,
there runs the golden thread of woman's ministry and

As in savage Dahomey the Amazons lead the fiercest
charges and are in the forefront of the onslaught, so, in the
nobler warfare against ignorance and vice, misery and want,
women have ever been found in the leading ranks, willing to
spend and be spent, and hoping against hope when the
stronger sex have felt inclined to give up in despair of doing
any good. In the mighty movements of the present century
they have taken their full part, doing the real, quiet, steady

So Woman s Mission.

work, sacrificing themselves freely on behalf of the poor and
the perishing.

If this be true in general, it has been peculiarly so in the
great Ragged School movement, for ever associated with the
name of the Earl of Shaftesbury. Half a century ago, a few
earnest men bestirred themselves in regard to the neglected
children of the poor ; and, as the earliest reports 'show, these
pioneers found their most loyal and trusted helpers in the
women who gave time and talents, strength and devotion, to
the furtherance of the cause.

To those who have familiarized themselves in any degree
with the early history of Ragged Schools, this simple state-
ment of fact means much. Ragged School teaching in those
days was no light task. Nor is it so now ; but then it
demanded an heroic : endurance and courage. The lawless,
untamed children who came to the schools first opened had
never known what it was to obey. Discipline, cleanliness,
order, were all alike foreign to their ideas. They thronged
into the new schools with the purpose of having a bit of fun
by upsetting everything. They blew out the candles, flung
over the forms, let birds and mice loose in the room in order
to create an uproar among the scholars and shake the nerves
of the teachers. These and a hundred similar tricks devised
by the ingenuity of these street Arabs had to be endured, and
as often as possible ignored, by the devoted few who " blazed
the way " into the primeval forests of ignorance and neglect.

Nor was this all. No Ragged School building then
existed, and these early efforts had to be made in stables,
cellars, attics, and all kinds of close hot rooms, which, when
crowded by unwashed children, would often become so fetid
and unwholesome that fainting was no uncommon occurrence.
Many of the teachers who encountered these early trials
were women women of delicate frames but heroic spirit, the
martyrs of the early days of the movement.

Woman's work in the Ragged Schools has embraced
many departments. Her gentle forbearance, tireless patience,
consuming zeal, keen perception, ready adaptability, quick
thought, and willing self-sacrifice for the sake of others, have
pervaded the whole enterprise, bringing the cause trium-
phantly through its darkest hours.

Woman s Work in tlte Ragged Schools. 81

While, however, woman's influence has moulded in some
degree the whole movement, there have been departments
which she has made specially her own. In giving some
outline of these it is not possible to enter on minute details
or mention names. Their many names are enrolled on high,
their work abides, and its blessed results are known of all
who have benefited by or shared in their service.

The departments of Ragged School labour which woman
has made her own have been teaching, mothers' meetings,
visitation of the sick and the poor, and clothing the naked ;
as well as such later developments as holiday homes, and the
work among home cripples. In reviewing these, we begin
with teaching, the first step in the work. If the boys in
early days were rough and lawless, the girls were no less so.
With them men could do nothing ; but, as the well-thumbed
reports of pioneer days attest, women's patience gradually
tamed the girls, to many of whom love and gentleness came
almost as a revelation. But ere their hearts were reached
much had to be borne by the teachers who yearned over
them and shed many a tear on their behalf. The girls'
classes have always been under the care of ladies, and these
come from all ranks of society. In one school, East End
way, may be found, almost any evening, teachers from both
ends of the social scale working side by side, and equally
prompt in drying the eyes of some unhappy child or giving
it a much-needed wash. This unity of purpose between
varied social grades has long been characteristic of the
Ragged School enterprise.

As these little girls grow up, the ladies seek to hold and
win them by forming girls' clubs and friendly societies, and
in a hundred ways trying to retain their confidence, and help
them in the trials peculiar to their hard lives. They have
formed successfully, not only Bible classes, but also sewing,
dressmaking, woolwork, and similar useful classes, teaching
them how to wield deftly woman's weapon, the needle.
Cooking classes also flourish in many of the schools. And,
as intemperance is the ruin of tens of thousands, temperance
work has ever been kept well to the front by the women
workers of the Ragged Schools. Nor has their teaching-
sphere included girls only. Long ago brave, resolute women


82 Woman s Mission.

volunteered to try the effect of woman's influence on rough
lads who had defied a male teacher's authority. In many such
cases the only course had seemed to be expulsion from the
school for the sake of other scholars, when some pitying lady
teacher offered to give them one more chance. We have
before us, as we write, the record of such noble undertakings ;
and in each one of them the gentle love of her who thus, in
weakness and trembling, faced the roughs, has been crowned
with fullest success.

Only the other night we heard a father, the superintendent
of a successful school, tell how when the rough lads broke all
bounds, he asked his own daughter to try them. She con-
senting, he wisely appointed two of the wildest spirits as her
bodyguard. Put on their honour, they well fulfilled their
charge ; and although she taught that class for years she
never met with a single insult conquering by love and
patience. Many of these very lads are now prosperous
Christian men and earnest teachers. Their own statement
is that under God they owe everything to the girl who
undertook to " try the roughs," rather than that they should
be expelled and left to drift to ruin. The story of Ragged
Schools contains many such episodes of womanly courage
and womanly magnetism.

But even rougher and more reckless than these lads were
many of the factory girls engaged in cocoa, cigar, fancy box,
button, and similar manufactories ; not to mention the
rougher classes of labour, dust sorting, jute and rope factories.
These seemed hopelessly defiant. Every attempt to reach
and interest them appeared doomed to failure. Taken
separately they might be managed, but in groups they but
dared one another to play the wildest pranks. We have seen
them turn out the gas, upset the forms, and reduce the whole
place to utter chaos, until the weary teacher had to beat a
hasty and sorrowful retreat. Yet even here, woman's
ingenuity, patience, and gentleness have won their way.
Those who would not be taught better things proved willing
to learn how to mend their clothes, make a tidy apron, or
trim a hat ; and at the end of an hour's practical help of this
kind would listen to a few loving words. So were they won,
so are they being won day by day in our factory girls' clubs

Woman s Work in the Ragged Schools. 83

and institutes. It is a work which has taxed woman's best
and rarest gift, and yet after all has yielded grand results.
The ladies who have endured the most are now the readiest
to declare the work is worth doing and the factory girls
worth winning.

Then also Mothers' Meetings, so closely associated with
Ragged Schools, have been peculiarly women's work. Mrs.
Bayly, who led the way in founding these useful helps for
mothers, wrote last winter a paper for a Ragged School
Workers' Conference, in which she dwelt on the value of
Mothers' Meetings in creating a new atmosphere in poor
homes, and inspiring thousands of women with new ideas as
to home life and the training of children. We need not do
more than name these Mothers' Meetings, for they are
thoroughly appreciated by all interested in home mission

Then there are creches for the infants of poor mothers
compelled to work for the support of the family. Necessity
knows no law, and mother had perforce either to lock baby
in a room all day alone, or leave it in the care of some child
but little older ; unless she handed it over to the care of
some woman who made a few pence by minding half a dozen
babies, or rather letting them mind themselves. Years ago
Mrs. Hilton led the way in opening a day nursery for such
infants. Now in many of the Ragged Schools there are airy,
healthy, well-managed creches, superintended by ladies. As
with mothers' meetings, day nurseries have been peculiarly
women's work, and under women's direction and care.

Turning to another department, the records of the Ragged
School movement show that women have been invaluable as
visitors. They have followed their scholars home, sought to
help the poor mothers in a thousand ways, introducing white-
wash, soap and water, and the beauties of tidy cleanliness ;
besides bringing the higher and sweeter message of the
Gospel. In times of sickness the teachers have been sure to
find their way to the poor home. No pains have been spared
to lighten, alleviate, and cheer the homes of sorrow. We
know of one who for twenty-five years has been daily visiting
in one poor district. She knows every room and family
therein, and is looked up to as friend, counsellor, and guide

84 Woman's Mission.

in sickness or distress, yet like others we have spoken of she
is a voluntary worker. In the cholera visitation of 1866, the
self-sacrifice and devotion of the lady teachers in many of our
poor districts was simply marvellous. For weeks the dead
and dying were all around them ; yet they flinched not,
visiting constantly, rendering every possible service to the
stricken, weeping with the bereaved, contriving for the widows
and orphans, and labouring with a quiet heroism beyond all

This service in distress, in sickness, in home trouble of
every kind, has been specially undertaken by women in the
Ragged School Missions of later times ; and although many
devoted men have shared in this service, yet our theme is
woman's work, and no account thereof would be complete
without this mention of woman's ministry in the homes of
the poor.

There are also the clothing operations, which are due to
the sympathy and keen eyes of the lady teachers, who, seeing
how the children many of them shivered in their thin rags,
set their wits to work to make and mend for those in need.
The earliest efforts were simply the result of the interchange
of confidences between the lady teachers, as to the pitiable
condition of some of their children. Old frocks and other
things were repaired and altered to fit special cases. The
need was whispered abroad, other ladies helped or sent gifts
of second-hand clothing and boots. These came through the
Ragged School Union, and the work grew as the state of
things among the children of the poor became more widely

Then in later years ladies' working parties, needlework
guilds, Guilds of the Good Samaritan, and so on, were
organized by energetic helpers. In due course a Ladies'
Auxiliary to the Ragged School Union was formed, under
the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, one of the most large-hearted
of our philanthropists, and a life-long generous and consistent
friend of Ragged Schools.

We may perhaps mention a few of the ladies' working
parties which, on behalf of ragged children, are in beneficial
action. There are the London Needlework Guild, under the
leadership of the Hon. Mrs. Halford ; the Tulse Hill Ladies'

Woman's Work in the Ragged Schools. 85

Working Party ; the Chiswick Dorcas Society ; the Guild of
the Good Samaritan, and similar working parties at Sidcup,
Highbury, Highgate, Finchley, Hampstead, Harrow, Bromley,
Ealing, Hemel Hempstead, Godalming, Melksham, Swansea,
and elsewhere. H.R.H. the Princess Louise, and H.R.H. the
Princess Mary, and many other ladies have co-operated by
sending gifts of warm clothing. One friend, with her house-
hold, makes up complete outfits for boys, even to shirts,
stockings, and boots. We only mention these as illustrative
of what ladies are doing for the ragged and shoeless children
in London alone.

These working parties assume many forms. There are
" Busy Bee " parties, and Bible-class sewing parties. Visiting
a mission only the other day, we found the members of a
Young Women's Bible-class hard at work stitching garments
for poor girls. Then there are household parties ; mistresses
interesting their maids, often with the best results. It is
wonderful how many useful articles come to us from domestic

Then come the Holiday Homes, of which the Ragged
School Union has now ten, and in which ladies have largely
co-operated. Indeed, a very fine home, Arthur's Home, at
Bognor, only lately opened, was a lady's noble gift to the
Ragged School Union a mother's memorial to her son, who
loved poor children. At Addiscombe, near Croydon, Louisa,
Lady Ashburton has built three holiday homes for adults,
children, and infants with their mothers. In these homes, of
course, women find their sphere as matrons and helpers. In
the whole Holiday Home movement women aid in the
heartiest way ; and in truth, going back to origins, the move-
ment itself, which this year gave to over five thousand weary
sickly children a fortnight's holiday in the country or by the
seaside, sprang from a woman's loving thought in inviting a
few poor children to stay some days in her cottage in the
country. So in this, as in many another departure in service,
woman led the way.

Coming now to another new development, we find in this
case that a man, not a woman, was the pioneer ; but, once
suggested, women have been its best helpers. This is the
Home Cripples' Branch, started by an American, who dis-

86 Woman's Mission.

covered hundreds of maimed, crippled, helpless little prisoners
in .out-of-the-way slums, unable to move out of doors, un-
taught, uncared for in every way, and dragging out their sad
lives in lonely misery. He is now helped in this work by a
blind lady visitor, who has learned to find her way to the
rooms where the little cripples lie, bringing them words of
cheer, and changing from one to another toys, picture books,
and the like, to while away the weary hours. There are also
two certificated kindergarten ladies, teaching those capable
of tuition to read and sing ; thus affording them some pleasure
and occupation in life ; and a widow is doing good service as
a sort of mothers' assistant and nurse. So in this new effort
on behalf of a peculiarly pitiful class, women are doing work
which they alone can do.

It will be borne in mind that in mentioning these few
illustrative instances, we are referring to a work embracing,
in London alone, two hundred Ragged School Missions, with
between four and five thousand voluntary teachers, more
than half of whom are women. In this movement, which
has progressed for nearly half a century, women have taken
their part ; some for short periods, it is true, others for many
years. Apart from the vast host of ladies who have helped
by generous gifts, by zealous collections, and by concerts,
either to delight poor children or to raise funds for their
benefit, in London alone, twenty to thirty thousand women
have directly laboured in Ragged School work. Thus it is
evident that the undoubted success attained amongst poor
and neglected children is largely owing to the beneficial
influence of woman's hands, woman's head, and woman's


EMIGRATION is a subject which has always attracted the
attention of the thoughtful, but it is far from being thoroughly
mastered. Its value as a relief to over-population in Europe
is undoubted, but much uncertainty still prevails as to the
right methods of conducting it. The uncertainty arises
principally from the want of reciprocity, and the value of
such an opportunity as the present one of bringing before
thoughtful people on both sides of the water the importance
of a more extended study of the subject, cannot be over-

Roughly speaking, Emigration may be regarded in two
aspects. There have always been the emigrants who go of
their own free will, inspired by their own energy, who have
founded communities, nay, even established empires ; and
these have been and may still, at the present time, be regarded
as the salt of the earth. But deeply as the world's history
is indebted to such pioneers, they are too limited in number
to affect the question much, as it stands at present. When-
ever the pioneers thus indicated discover the treasures of
God's earth in different places there arises a vehement outcry
for human labour to utilize these gifts. And it is just then
that intelligent intervention in the form of well-regulated
emigration is invaluable.

The regulation of the supply of labour, everywhere occupies
the thoughts of statesmen and philanthropists ; in fact, it may
be called the burning question of the hour. Emigration must
always affect it powerfully, and this resource will never give

88 Woman 's Mission.

all the relief and comfort that lies within its capacity until
a far wider and more detailed knowledge of its better systems
has been obtained.

It is with emigration as it concerns labour that we now
have to do, and our business is to show what has been
attempted and is being done for it by women. They have
not failed in former years to bear their part. Much was
done by Mrs. Chisholm forty years ago for the better
regulation of female emigration to Australia ; and Lady
Herbert of Lea, Lady Kinnaird, and other workers, co-
operated with the effort made to emigrate working women
by means of Mr. Sidney Herbert's Emigration Fund.

The society called the British Ladies' Emigration Associa-
tion did admirable work for many years in selecting matrons
for the protected parties going to Australia and other British
colonies. These matrons collected a mass of information
which has since been turned to good account. The Women's
Emigration, the Church Emigration, and other societies have
worked on the same lines. They have gradually proved to
us that the transmission of emigrants is a matter requiring
the utmost thought and preparation ; and, above all, they

Online LibraryAngela Georgina Burdett-CouttsWoman's mission; a series of congress papers on the philanthropic work of women, by eminent writers → online text (page 9 of 49)