Open main menu

Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/312

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

chance at all of the true best in early life. It was her intense belief in domestic life, — the kind of belief specially characteristic not only of her Church, the Unitarian Church, but of her family, which may be said to have embodied the most characteristic and devout type of Unitarianism, — which filled her with so profound a pity for the vagrant and criminal class, who are "cradled" into crime by the very influences on which the happy depend for their security against temptation. Beginning with ragged schools, Miss Carpenter was gradually led to see the necessity for all the gradations of schools of this kind which have since been established, and all of which are now recognized in our educational or penal system, — the reformatory, which is the beneficent modern substitute for that prison by which young offenders used to be carefully ripened into hardened criminals, — the industrial school intended for a class not of criminals, but of neglected and homeless children, who would be all but certain to become criminals if they were not trained to industry and honesty, — and lastly, the day industrial school, recognized for the first time by the State in Lord Sandon's measure of last year, wherein the "waifs and strays" who have not had exactly bad parents, but parents unequal to the task of home discipline, are prepared by a little wholesome preparatory training for the common schools into which they would otherwise bring the elements of anarchy. Miss Carpenter it was who chiefly amongst Englishmen and English women conceived, elaborated, and worked out by her own devotion, in the schools under her own individual care, this great network of provisions for the neglected, or worse than neglected, depraved children of a class to whom education has little meaning and to whom the word indeed suggests no vivid conception of either responsibility or risk, — and a nobler work can hardly be conceived. Hundreds of children owe their redemption from infancy to her individual labors. Tens of thousands in our own day, and millions in a future day will owe to the measures for which she, with other men and women of like mind, is responsible, their opportunities of honorable work, and perhaps, even of an honored name. In this sense, at least, Miss Carpenter will have earned the blessings of a greater and better, though a less sweet and grateful sphere of motherhood, than some of the best of those who have transmitted their name and nature to a posterity of their own race. Nor should any one forget that Miss Carpenter's work in this respect was neither the work of a mere social and political advocate who had thoroughly studied the subject, nor that of an amateur who had just sufficient practical knowledge of it to bring the principles and details vividly before the mind. It was, in regard to reformatories at least, work of most careful, systematic, and long-continued organization, — organization carried out to the highest perfection on the minutest points. Of the school at Red Lodge, Bristol, as it is carried on at the present moment, — the school, which was the chief practical labor of her life, — a most efficient critic, who has himself given the utmost attention to the subject, Professor Sheldon Amos, after "spending two days in a minute investigation of every part of her work at Bristol," writes as follows: "No description we had met with, even from herself, had done justice to the patient and conscientious elaboration of every detail of the work, and we felt it a rare advantage and delight to hear her own logical and exhaustive explanation of the problems that had lain before her, and their solution."

And as it happens with all true enthusiasts, so it was with Miss Carpenter, — her sympathies were not bounded by her own world. She was essentially a missionary as well as a reformer; indeed, it is a sure sign of the inadequacy of any kind of enthusiasm to the work required of it, when it is contented to be restricted to one limited sphere. Miss Carpenter's four journeys to India, after she had already reached the age when rest is pleasant, attest how keenly she desired to see the educational advantages for which she had labored so hard in England extended to those aliens in blood, language, and religion for whose protection and civilization the British government is responsible. Of course she did not achieve as much in India as she did at home. The field was one less known to her, and certainly one into which she carried impressions and prepossessions that must have to some extent limited her usefulness. But even there the impressions she produced and the gratitude she inspired remain remarkable testimonies to the pure disinterestedness of her purpose, and the energy of self-sacrifice with which she worked for its attainment. Native princes vied with each other in endeavoring to persuade her to extend her labors in aid of female education and the improvement of the prisons to their dominions, and the heartfelt and often costly expressions of their gratitude for what she effected, prove that in their