Woman of the Century/Emma Maitland Stirling
STIRLING, Miss Emma Maitland, philanthropist, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, 15th December, 1839, where her parents had gone to spend the winter Their home was in St. Andrews, the scene of John Knox's labors and the place where so many of the Reformation martyrs suffered for their faith. Her father was John Stirling, the third son of Andrew Stirling, of Drumpellier in Lanarkshire, Scotland, a gentleman of an old family, the name of which is known in Scotch history. Her mother was Elizabeth Willing, daughter of Thomas Mayne Willing, of Philadelphia, Pa., a grand-daughter of the Thomas Willing who signed the American Declaration of Independence, and niece of Dorothy Willing, who previous to the war was married to Sir Walter Stirling, Bart., so that her father and mother were second-cousins. EMMA MAITLAND STIRLING, Emma was the youngest of twelve children. Although in her childhood the family usually spent the winters in England, St. Andrews was their home, and, when Emma was nine years old, they lived there steadily, in one of the pre-Reformation houses, situated directly opposite the ruins of the cathedral, in the midst of the quarter of the town inhabited by the fishing population. To this she attributes her early developed love and compassion for poor children, which was much aroused and sorely needed by those who lived on the other side of her garden walls. Truly the "fisher-folk" of those days on the east coast of Scotland were degraded, steeped in poverty, ignorance, dirt and whisky. At all events they drank, fought, swore and did everything that was shocking, and their poor children suffered accordingly. Miss Stirling says: "Ever since I can remember the suffering and cries of these children, 'my neighbors,' were a great distress to me. I don't remember trying to do much for them until I was twelve years old, except to speak kindly to the least rough of the tribe, and an occasional small gift of anything I had to the little ones. We were not rich ourselves. I was called by the Lord at twelve years of age, and being brought by Him from darkness to light, felt that I must try to do something for those He loved so well as the children. From that time to help them in some way or other became the business of my life. It was, I can honestly say, my constant prayer to be shown what I could do; in short, it became a passion with me, part of my existence. This craving, for I can call it nothing else, to save and help poor suffering children has never ceased, never abated. It is the reason why I am living in Nova Scotia to-day. To show how it acted at that time of my life, when I was twelve years old I hated plain sewing, but the necessities of my small neighbors were so apparent and pressing that I practiced it for their sake, and ere long came to love it." Having thus grown up among those children, she was asked, when about seventeen years old, to become a lady visitor in the fisher's school, close by. She accepted willingly and enjoyed her work heartily. After some years a secretary was required for the school, and she was chosen and worked hard for several years more. There were six-hundred children in the various departments. She had clothing clubs for girls and boys, a penny-bank for all, and a work society for old women. Besides all this work, she had the care of keeping house for her mother, with whom she lived alone. In 1870 a great trial befell her. She slipped on the icy street, when on her rounds, and was so seriously hurt as to lie an invalid for nearly six years, unable to walk. She became more anxious about saving children from accidents in consequence. About that time her mother died, and her old home was broken up. She went to live near Edinburg, and felt called on to open a day nursery in February, 1877, for the protection of the little ones whose mothers worked out. Soon the homes grew out of that, until in 1886 she had too many children to feed in Scotland, three-hundred every day. Being responsible for the debt of the institution, she found her own means melting away, and she had to find some country where food was cheaper and openings more plentiful for poor children than in Scotland, and she went to Nova Scotia, where she settled on Hillfoot Farm, Aylesford, Kings county. There she had a large house, and her heart has not grown smaller for poor children.