Workhouses and women's work
The Church of England Monthly Review
ON THE CONDITION OF WORKHOUSES,
READ IN THE SOCIAL ECONOMY DEPARTMENT OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION
FOR THE PROMOTION OF SOCIAL SCIENCE, AT BIRMINGHAM,
"If any lady, either in town or country, with charitable instincts, with a vague desire after good
will look round in search of some practical starting point, let her turn her eyes towards the Union
Workhouse, and begin her ministrations there."—North British Review, February, 1857.
LONGMAN, BROWN, GREEN, LONGMANS, & ROBERTS.
J. & W. Rider, Printers, 14, Bartholomew Close, London.
WORKHOUSES AND WOMEN'S WORK.
Metropolitan Workhouses and their Inmates. London: Longman.
Report on the Accommodation in St. Pancras Workhouse. By Henry Bence Jones, M.D., F.R.S. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of Her Majesty.
The Institution of Kaiserswerth on the Rhine, for the Practical Training of Deaconesses. (Not Published.)
Two Letters on Girls' Schools, and on the Training of Working Women. By Mrs. Austin. London: Chapman and Hall.
TWENTY-THREE years ago the Old Poor Law was superseded by "An Act for the Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Poor in England and Wales," and people in general are satisfied with the great advantages that have been gained by the exchange. The abuses of the former system had become so glaring, that some alteration seemed to be urgently called for, if the poor of this country were not to become pauperized. To such an extent was relief afforded, that the able-bodied labourer was in the habit of applying for it to eke out his weekly wages; and should they fail altogether, he was encouraged to enter the workhouse, where we are told that he fed upon the fat of the hind and indulged in luxurious idleness. It is stated on the authority of an assistant poor-law commissioner, writing at the time of the change,—
"The English pauper is better fed than the independent labourer; the suspected thief receives in gaol considerably more food than the pauper; the convicted thief receives still more; and the transported felon receives every day very nearly three times as much food as the honest, independent peasant. The Kentish pauper has what are called three meat days a week, in many cases four, and in some five; his bread is many degrees better than that given to our soldiers; he has vegetables at discretion; and especially in the larger workhouses it is declared with great pride 'that there is no stinting,' but that 'we gives 'em as much victuals as ever they can eat.'"
Of course they lived better than many of the ratepayers. The description of the old poor-law system is concluded with these words:—
"As a national jest-book, the history of our parishes and the contents of their ledgers stand, we must confess, unrivalled; but when we reflect that the sum total of this expenditure has annually exceeded seven millions, that the poor rates of any country are the symbol of its improvidence, and the sure signal of its distress, we must also admit that there exists in the history of our kingdom nothing more sorrowful, more discreditable, than our late poor-law system."
It will hardly be suspected that we are lamenting the close of such a state of things, or advocating in any respect a return to it. Nothing that we are at present about to suggest as a remedy or a reform was attempted under the former routine, or is incompatible with the present one.
It was no wonder that such a system came to an end, and that its gross injustice, as well as its injurious tendency, loudly demanded an alteration. An amendment was accordingly made, and has been the law in England sufficiently long for its results to be examined and fairly judged at the present day. When flagrant abuses are found to exist, it is hardly to be wondered at that a somewhat violent reaction frequently takes place in redressing them; and if over-indulgence was the fault of the old poor law, it can hardly be denied that harshness has been the characteristic of the new one. We have no doubt that it was originally framed with all due caution and deliberation, and that in the main its rules have worked beneficially for the country. But of late years a suspicion has begun to arise, that along with great benefits there exist also many evils which demand attention and remedy; evils, perhaps, not inherent in the system itself, but which have developed themselves and grown up around it in the course of years; unforeseen at the beginning, and hardly then admitting of a remedy, but becoming apparent in the progress of events and of experience.
To these evils and their proposed remedies it is now our task to direct the attention of our readers, referring them to the publications at the head of this article for fuller information upon the subject of the management of our dependent poor,—a subject strangely neglected by the public till a very recent period, considering that the well-being of more than 600,000 of our fellow- creatures is involved in the management of the workhouses of England.
The existence of a poor law, or a national provision for the poor, has been an established fact in England ever since the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It was called into existence when the system of providing for the helpless poor was done away with by the abolition of the monastic institutions of the country. Other countries have continued to manage their poor without the aid of a law, and we believe there are some persons who think these plans are preferable to our own, and hold out less encouragement to pauperism. They believe that such a state is not a necessary and unavoidable one, but the invariable consequence of improvidence and vice, and that with regard to these undesirable qualities our country is pre-eminent amongst the nations of Europe. This fact is taken as a proof that the existence of a poor law does not work favourably on the national character, but tends to lower its independence and energy. How far this is in reality the case we are not prepared to say. The poor law is at all events an acknowledged necessity in England, and without it we should find ourselves in a state of great perplexity at the present day. We will assume it to have been originally established for the relief of what we may call unavoidable misfortune, and as long as every class of society occasionally claims the assistance of its more fortunate members, the lowest class alone is not to be blamed for requiring aid. In our large and overcrowded towns especially, the numerous causes which produce loss of health, and the temporary or permanent failure of wages from that and other causes, may surely account for a large proportion of misery which may be called unavoidable; and if so, we can hardly deny that it is the duty of a Christian state to provide help for it. That prudence and foresight are to be encouraged by every means in our power (especially by the more careful education of the young of both sexes) cannot be denied; but to wait till such a consummation is attained, which would result in the absence of all poverty requiring the systematic help of the more fortunate classes, were as hopeless as to wait for the day when sanitary measures and the progress of medical science for the prevention of disease should render the erection of hospitals unnecessary, and as unreasonable as to expect that the increase of reformatories should enable us to close our prisons. To mark the exact line of avoidable and unavoidable poverty will ever remain an impossibility; the utmost we can hope to do is to approach towards it, and by a vigilant supervision of those who are relieved, discourage as much as possible the idle and undeserving. Such an attempt seems hardly to have been made under the old system, and it is not surprising that the introduction of changes and the suppression of many abuses should have been hailed with unmixed satisfaction, and for a time all defects in the new system were overlooked. Some of the administrators of the old régime of course looked coldly upon innovations of any kind, but the change was generally welcomed as the means of ridding the country of a great and ever-increasing burden.
We will now proceed to make some remarks upon the different classes of misfortune, for the relief of which the poor law is intended, and which are supposed to have a right to claim its assistance. We hope to be able to shew that there is a class of deserving poor who are entitled to a better treatment than they at present receive in the administration of our public charity; and also, that a more efficient and discriminating management would not tend to increase, but rather to diminish, pauperism.
With regard to the persons for whom the provision of a home in the workhouse is afforded, we may quote the words of Mrs. Jameson, in her book on the Communion of Labour. She says, "The purpose of a workhouse is to be a refuge to the homeless, houseless, helpless poor; to night-wanderers; to orphan children; to the lame and blind; to the aged, who here lie down on their last bed to die. The number of inmates varies in different parishes at different seasons, from 400 to 1,000. In the great London unions it is generally from 1,500 to 2,000." Assuming then that all these are not impostors or otherwise undeserving of compassion and help, we will briefly consider what is their present general condition, and what measures are taken for their welfare.
In the first place, whatever the management of workhouses may be, it is stated to be a fact, that they are less comfortable than prisons, and that the latter are preferred as places of abode by the lower classes. Magistrates and chaplains and visitors to prisons acknowledge this to be the case. The preference is openly avowed by men and women, especially the latter. What does it matter to them if the degradation of the prison is greater than the workhouse, if indeed there is much difference between the two in this respect? The prison offers a clean and comfortable lodging, food far superior to the usual fare of the criminal, and to that of workhouses; kind and attentive officers of a grade above those provided for the non-criminal poor. Such treatment as is too commonly received even from the porter at the workhouse-gate, would not be suffered in prison establishments, which are governed by a bench of magistrates, gentlemen by character and position, who regularly visit and inspect the buildings. With them rests the appointment of a governor, a gentleman of education and intelligence, who has the supreme command over the establishment, and, generally speaking, this important office is filled with discretion and zeal. The chaplain's is an important and conspicuous post, and lady visitors have long since been permitted to visit the female inmates.
The Report of the Visiting Justices of the Westminster House of Correction shews that the number of commitments from that prison to workhouses in the year 1856 was 273, and to the Coldbath Fields Prison 221. With regard especially to the boys and girls thus committed, the magistrates speak as follows:—"Your committee cannot but believe, if more attention were paid in workhouses to classification and other important arrangements of a reformatory character, there would be much less necessity for sending so many of the inmates to prison; and the visiting justices are strengthened in this belief from the fact of the very great difference in the numbers that are sent from some of the workhouses in comparison with others." They believe that "an increase in the criminal population must arise from familiarizing so many destitute persons with the interior of the prison;" and they further suggest, "that offences against workhouse rules should be punished by other means than imprisonment in a criminal prison; and that greater facilities should be offered to the poor and destitute, as well as to discharged prisoners, to prevent their committing offences in order to obtain an asylum." Surely if there is no other argument in favour of an amended administration of our workhouses, this alone would be sufficient. Either our prisons for criminals must be made less comfortable and attractive, or our workhouses for the non-criminal poor more so. The progress from the workhouse to the prison is a very easy and natural one. A girl who has lost her place and has no home, enters the union, and is placed with many other women, old as well as young, some of whom are far worse than herself, and is put to the usual employment of oakum picking. There is no one to give kindly advice or counsel to her; the matron is far too busy with her various household occupations; the chaplain confesses that she and her companions are beyond his reach. Such elements thrown together can hardly do otherwise than ferment, and ultimately explode. The "taskmaster" is appointed to be superintendent over this department of labour, and is virtually the only person who exercises any sort of supervision there. The treatment received from him, as may be imagined, not unfrequently leads to rebellion and abusive language; then comes the black hole," this being the authorized means of punishment committed to masters of workhouses. If during the confinement there riotous conduct is indulged in (even singing or making noises are sometimes sufficient causes of offence), an increase of punishment is resorted to by a removal to prison, which, being found to be a more comfortable abode than the workhouse (for the reasons above stated), it is no longer an object of terror and dread, but rather of desire, to those members of our youthful population who have thus made trial of it. A more mischievous result than this, either from our misplaced philanthropy or impolitic harshness, can hardly be imagined, yet it is one that is of constant, almost weekly, occurrence.
One of the most important branches of this subject is undoubtedly the education of the children. The separation of the young from all possible contamination from those who are already trained in vice is one of the imperative duties of all who have the management of the poor in their hands; and this seems to be a point on which some additional legislation is called for. The question has its difficulties, but they are not such as should prevent the enforcing of some compulsory regulations with regard to it. The chief difficulty in the case of the entire separation of schools from the workhouse, seems to lie in providing for the education of the children who may enter the house with their parents for a short time. Yet it is as important to separate those children who are undergoing a course of systematic training in the schools from the children of the workhouse, as from the adults. The children of low and vicious parents who may enter for a temporary refuge would be a source of the greatest mischief, and undo much of the influence which had in the course of time been gained over the others. If there must be a choice between the two, it would be better to leave the few children without the regular instruction of a school, than to subject numbers to the evils of an education within the workhouse walls, and the many injurious influences which must arise from such a position. There is abundant evidence at all events as to the necessity of a separation in the case of unions in large towns. In Mrs. Austin's Two Letters on Girls' Schools and on the Training of Working Women, a very strong opinion is expressed on this point, and an interesting account given of the successful working of an attempt which has been carried on for some years in connexion with the Norwich workhouse. The advocates of these schools or "homes," as they are called, have had a great struggle both in establishing and maintaining them, and an alteration in the law which would make such separate schools compulsory, would be gladly hailed by them. Want of sufficient accommodation in the workhouse led to the establishment of these schools in the years 1850 and 1853, and the following is an extract containing an account of them by the gentleman with whom the plan originated:—
"Many years since I was deeply impressed with the importance of industrial training for the children of my poor neighbours, especially for those who inhabited our workhouse. The system to which they were subjected was injurious to their bodily health, deleterious to their mental vigour, fatal to their souls' salvation … Against the cost of the home we must place the cost of the same children in the workhouse; from the former they invariably go to service; we could dispose of twice the number. From the latter they would never go, except for self-indulgence; a vicious career of short duration, ending in despair or in a return to the workhouse, to become perpetual or thoroughly vicious paupers; so that in the case of such a girl, the cost of a life of pauperism must be carried to account … Nor let it be forgotten that we secure to these orphan and destitute children spiritual instruction, free from the distraction of ungodly companions; moral supervision, moral training and example; a knowledge of everyday duties; a comprehension of the value of well-employed hours; a perception of the evil consequences of a temporary indulgence in sin; the difference between a dwelling like this and the workhouse. We try to make this a home, and the matron a parent. The children feel that they are free agents; they learn the value of self-exertion and of an earned subsistence."
Mrs. Austin adds: —
"Mr. G. Johnson concludes with an earnest wish that the attempt to rescue the children of workhouses from the contagion of bad example might become more general. I am told from high authority that the ratepayers almost universally resist any such attempt. This is a deplorable fact, and only shews more clearly the necessity for earnest endeavours to convince them that parsimony is, in such a case, the worst thrift."
Such "homes" as these, containing, perhaps, not more than forty girls or boys, must be far more hopeful attempts for educating the destitute children of the lowest classes than the large establishments now spreading in the neighbourhood of London for the reception of children from the various unions, and where many hundreds are congregated together in masses too great to constitute in any sense a "family." Such numbers collected under one roof must be managed by a machinery exercised by a few paid persons, who, however efficient, can ill supply the place of relations and home affections. This want is indeed a very difficult one to be supplied, for it must be remembered that these poor children have no homes. There is for them no going home for the holidays, none of the happy, joyous objects for thought which fill the hearts of most children. And here, when judging harshly of these classes, we should do well to remember the want of all the advantages which are usually considered essential to the well-being of children. Such reflections would go far to lessen the wonder so often expressed at the results apparent in the after lives of those who have been trained in circumstances so dissimilar, and at the fact that so many act as if they were outcasts from that world and that society which has shewn so little love to them. It is a fearful and significant fact that many of the most hopeless and hardened inmates of workhouses are girls who have been brought up in the pauper schools.
Mrs. Jameson mentions the case of a large parish union where it was reckoned that about fifty per cent, of the girls were returned to them ruined and depraved; and she gives the following testimony of a workhouse chaplain, Mr. Brewer:—
"The disorderly girls and boys in our streets are mainly the produce of the workhouse and the workhouse schools. Over them society has no hold, because they have been taught to feel that they have nothing in common with their fellow-men. Their experience is not of a home or of parents, but of a workhouse and a governor—of a prison and a gaoler as hard and rigid as either."—Communion of Labour, p. 113.
This was probably said of girls trained under the workhouse roof, but the result of district schools is at present less satisfactory than we should expect.
We would venture here to make the suggestion that ladies should be appointed to visit and inspect the schools, as well as the gentlemen appointed by the guardians and the Poor Law Board, and this would be an important part of the work of ladies' committees connected with workhouses. They would endeavour to gain a hold on the affections of the children by means of a personal knowledge and interest, which would not cease when they left the school, but would follow them out into their respective situations; and as these establishments must be homes as well as schools, an infusion of some kindly and cheerful elements would be most desirable. Who can tell what might be the value of a friend to many of these poor friendless ones, of whom boards of guardians are but too often the sole protectors? and how many might it not be the means of rescuing from sin and misery, or an early return to the workhouse? If such a result were attainable, it would be wise in boards of guardians to encourage rather than check a system of inspection, which women alone are able and willing to undertake. It is well known that a large proportion of women prisoners have been reared in workhouses; and the master of a large union has stated that the pauper schools furnish a large number of the unhappy women who are abandoned to the most vicious lives. The reason is, not that they are ill cared for in these schools, but that parish children are generally orphans, or the children of profligate parents; and that after they are placed in service by their respective parishes, they, having no person to whom they can look with affection and respect, leave the places to which they have been consigned, and gradually are lost among the crowd of profligates who throng our streets.
The possibility of carrying out an industrial system of training is the great advantage of the schools on a large scale, and the entire separation of the children from the associations of pauperism and from intercourse with their relations is insured. To some persons this last reason has appeared to be an objection, but we hardly think that it can be so considered by those who know what their relations (generally speaking) are, and what an influence for evil they possess over the children. The occasional visits that they receive from their parents when in separate schools, must be very different from frequent association with persons who are living in the workhouse, the effects of which cannot be otherwise than evil. The opportunities of industrial training in a workhouse schools are also small; the cooking, washing, &c., for the children being performed in the "house." The cleaning of the schools is, therefore, almost the only part of industrial work that is left to be done by the girls. There are some instances where the children living in the workhouse are sent out to the national schools, and the plan is said to work well; but here again there must be the disadvantages of a home in the workhouse, and, except in a few well-managed instances, the effect of this must be injurious. These poor children, notwithstanding their many disadvantages both of mind and body, are not insensible to kindly influences, and, generally speaking, from their weakly constitutions require tender treatment. In visiting one of the largest of these establishments lately, we were told some touching anecdotes of these unfortunate little ones. In the infirmary were several in bed, victims of sad disease and neglect; one of them, almost at the close of his short life, begged for a bit of the superintendent's dinner, and added, "Please, sir, let me have it on your plate!" The sight of a different and a coloured plate was something that this poor child felt to be a pleasure, and it spoke to us strongly in favour of humanizing and kindly influences over even the outcasts of society. We hardly think that any sermon could be preached which would so eloquently plead the cause of labouring for the welfare and the elevation of the lowest classes, both physically, morally, and spiritually, as a visit to these homes of pauper children. Their ill-grown bodies, low and debased countenances, weak eyes, and all the other various signs of disease, the dulness of many, almost approaching to idiocy, speak but too plainly of the condition of those masses of our population from which they have sprung,—of the homes unfit for human habitation, of the drunken habits, induced probably by the state of those homes, and of all the sin and misery of the parents which are thus entailed upon a new generation, and which years of training and wholesome living are unable wholly to eradicate.
The evils of the employment of pauper nurses is dwelt upon by all who have considered the subject of workhouse management. When we consider the persons to whom such extensive power and responsibility are intrusted, in the care of 50,000 sick persons in the London workhouses alone, we can hardly wonder at what is told of the results of the system. The only way in which an employment of the inmates could be successfully carried out, would be under the constant supervision of superior persons; but in the present system that is an impossibility. Even then the nurses to be obtained would be, generally speaking, only the worn-out remains of lives whose strength had been spent elsewhere. Efficient nurses, who could gain a living in any of our hospitals, would not be likely to offer themselves for a post in which it is nearly all work of the hardest kind, and no pay. Incapacitated in some way, either morally or physically, they are most likely to be. One of these nurses boldly stated that she had been sixteen times in the House of Correction, and she was not ashamed of it; she was a woman given to drink, and of a violent, ungovernable temper, causing great misery to the aged people under her control. Can these women be fit to attend on the sick, the infirm, and the dying? Of course such labour is cheap, and it is desirable, if possible, to employ those who must be maintained at the cost of the parish; but in no case should they be left with the sole charge and responsibility of sick wards, as they continually are at present, without any other control than the occasional visit of the matron, bestowed at the utmost once a day, in some cases only once a week.
In the intervals the patients are absolutely and helplessly at the mercy of these women, of whom they dare not complain, knowing what treatment would be visited upon them in revenge if they did. From the complete equality of the pauper nurses and their patients, no respect is felt for them, and no authority can be exercised. Obedience, therefore, is obtained through fear and terror, and those only who have witnessed the wrangling and abuse that but too often are carried on by patients and nurses (who are sometimes girls of bad character), can imagine so sad and painful a scene. When position and character are both wanting, it is difficult to see how it should be otherwise. Seeing how careful boards of guardians are in all matters of expense, it would have been well if the recommendation of the poor law with regard to the employment of at least one paid nurse had been a law; as it is, many workhouses are without one. That such a person would always be all we could desire for so important a post we could hardly hope, from what we know of the paid nurses in hospitals, but at any rate there would be a better chance of efficiency and character than in the present plan. A suggestion was made some years ago for the training of some of the able bodied women in workhouses to the office of nurses for the sick poor; it received the sanction of the Poor Law Board, and efforts were made by the proposer. Dr. Sieveking, to give publicity to the plan; but it has not yet been carried into effect. Independently of the great doubt that must exist as to the possibility of forming these persons into efficient nurses, there is no machinery at present in our workhouses by which the plan could possibly be carried out. When a more numerous and efficient staff of superintendents is provided, the attempt may be made with some partial hope of success.
The want of trained and kind superintendence is as much felt in those departments called the "insane wards," as in the infirmary. Though the violently insane are not allowed to be kept for a time exceeding fourteen days, yet there are many who are considered to be sufficiently harmless to be permanent inmates. Imbeciles, and those afflicted with fits, are to be found in every workhouse. What a call there is here for all the tenderness of woman's care amongst the nurses of this most heavily-afflicted portion of the great human family! Yet what reason is there to suppose that these sufferers meet with the treatment which the utmost devotion, Christian love, and self-denying zeal alone can give? An old woman, between seventy and eighty years of age, worn out by her own hard and troubled life both in body and mind, is not the most likely person to act with tenderness and skill in such an arduous and trying post. The very incapacity of the patients to speak for themselves and complain of their grievances is a terrible temptation to tyranny and harshness on the part of those who have the care of them, and it is only a high principle of love and conscientiousness that can be a safeguard against such conduct. The asylums for idiots which already exist are found to be utterly incompetent to receive that portion of the 30,000 idiots of our population which calls for our Christian help and charity. The burden of them in the crowded homes of poor families can hardly be conceived by those who are not personally acquainted with the circumstances, and we therefore feel that a more suitable refuge ought to be provided for them in our unions than at present exists, or is possible under the present system of nursing and inspection. In concluding our remarks upon this portion of the subject we may quote the statistics given by Mrs. Jameson as to the ages of pauper nurses employed in London workhouses:—
"There are seventy paid nurses, and five hundred pauper nurses and assistants. One-half of these nurses are above fifty, one-quarter above sixty, many not less than seventy, and some more than eighty years old. An extra allowance of tea or beer is the reward given for their services; but the propensity to drink is so strong, that it is with the utmost difficulty that they are kept from indulging it."
We can hardly wonder at this when we find that the habit is encouraged rather than checked by those in authority. In many workhouses it is the custom to allow the nurses a glass of gin daily, besides their portion of beer. Can we wonder that a habit thus acquired grows into drunkenness when the opportunity offers?—indeed it is inevitable that it should do so. If the nurses are so worn out by ill-health and poverty that they require such stimulants to enable them to perform their duty, it is argument enough against their efficiency. But their powers are not strengthened by a process which, it is well known, undermines health and vigour. Let them have good food and tea and coffee in sufficient quantities, and if this will not enable them to perform their work they are not fit to undertake it. Living night and day in sick wards, ill-ventilated as they generally are, may well impair powers both of body and mind, and nurses should not be required to do so. Mrs. Jameson may well remark, after an enumeration of such facts, "These are the sisters of charity to whom our sick poor are confided!"
An amended management of our workhouses is demanded chiefly on the grounds that the persons who are, and under the present state of things must be, received into them, are not all degraded and worthless. But supposing they were of such a character, at any rate they are deserving of treatment at least as good as that bestowed upon criminals. The testimony of visitors and chaplains may be received upon this point. One of the latter says: —
"The inmates of our workhouses are not generally the dregs and refuse of the population, although of course a great many of these are mixed with the rest. In our workhouse of two hundred and twenty inmates only two come under the class of able-bodied men. This is probably below the general average, but it proves the mistake of treating the entire number of inmates of a workhouse with harshness, as if it was great portion of every workhouse should be regarded as appropriated to the reception of those aged or disabled persons who have spent their health and strength for the benefit of the community, and therefore have a claim upon it when that health and strength are gone. If, from the want of friends or relations, they are obliged to enter the workhouse, they ought to be treated with as much kindness and consideration as is compatible with their station. Experience tells me that they yearn for this more than for an increase of bodily comforts."invariable rule that they enter it through their own fault. A
The public in general are but little aware of the condition in which a large portion of their fellow-creatures live; too often it is but a bare existence in which saving is an impossibility. The skilled artisan, mechanic, or labourer may indeed earn such wages as should provide against the evil day, and here it is where care and forethought should be diligently inculcated. But over and above these classes, there is a very large number of the miserably underpaid (perhaps educated in the first instance to no regular occupation), whose earnings cannot even suffice for their present wants. The sufferings and hardships of tailors and needlewomen, and the whole army of "slop-workers," were loudly proclaimed a few years ago, but, we fear, without much good resulting from the exposure. The system of excessive division of labour in all large establishments leads to the miserable under-payment of the employed, till the actual makers of clothing and other articles, even for Government purposes, receive such compensation as may well be considered a disgrace to a Christian nation. We need scarcely wonder that the end of lives so employed is spent in the receipt of charity or in the workhouse.
We have no doubt that in very many cases the fearful habit of intemperance aggravates the evils of poverty, if it is not the cause of them, but it cannot account for all the misery of the world, as long as such facts as these stand forth against us. For destitution resulting from this state of things the workhouse is the appointed refuge; no other asylum is provided on a scale adequate to meet it. In other countries the help is supplied, not by private benevolence alone, but by the assistance of Government also, for the need exists there as well as here. In the pamphlet entitled Metropolitan Workhouses and their Inmates, a description is given of the "hospices" in Paris for the incurably sick and aged, which appear in a great measure to take the place of our workhouses; the management of them seems to be admirable. The following is an account of a similar institution in Malaga, shewing that even in ill-governed Spain these things are better managed than with us:—
"There is a sort of large workhouse in this place, supported by voluntary contributions: it is called the 'Casa de Mendicidad, de Socorro, e de Maternidad.' The 'Mendicidad' department is for obstinate and notorious beggars, who are taken there by the police; the 'Socorro' for any poor who like to enter it voluntarily; the 'Maternidad' for foundlings or orphans, or for any children whose parents like to send them there. There are four sisters of mercy, belonging to the order of St. Vincent de Paul, They attend to the babies, teach the girls, and go out to nurse the sick. It was quite delightful to see the terms on which the sisters and the children were; the respect, entirely devoid of fear, that the latter have. The difference between this and that focus of corruption, an English workhouse, struck me. I know an English child of only six, who has learnt such evil habits in a workhouse and become so rooted in them, that if she had remained there a year longer I should say she must have been ruined for life. These Spanish children when they grow up go out into service, but if their mistresses do not like them, they are to be sent back to the house. If any of them wish to remain and become sisters, they may do so; but I believe the general end is they marry or go into service. Altogether, instead of being a prison like our workhouses, it was a happy home."
It is somewhat strange that English benevolence, so widely extended over every form of sorrow and sickness that can human nature, has not till late years thought of the incurably sick. It was probably supposed that our workhouses took this class of persons under their care, for it was known that they were not maintained in hospitals. Yet it is pitiable to think of the large number of hopelessly sick and bed-ridden who are shut up in our workhouses as they are at present constituted. The strict rules enforced in many of them as to receiving the visits of friends, is one of the reasons which causes them to be deemed little better than prisons. It has been repeatedly alleged, that if it were otherwise persons would be attracted to them, tempted to give up their homes, and thus impose upon the public charity. But at the best, and with all the improvements that can be made, there must always be a certain degree of restraint imposed upon the inmates by the rules necessary for every large establishment, which would prove a cheek upon any temptation to desert their homes. And it is said that in France the institutions which maintain many hundreds of the aged and infirm in greater comfort than is enjoyed in our workhouses, do not attract persons from their homes. In England, therefore, where the love of home is pre-eminently strong, we need hardly fear that it would be the case. The regularity of hours will always be distasteful to those who have enjoyed independence all their lives; and even were the food made more palatable than it is at present, it would not be preferred to the self-chosen fare, for the sameness unavoidable in such places will always be disliked. So great is the love of liberty and choice in these matters, that working women have been known to prefer bringing their own scanty meals to their workrooms, to sharing in one general fare, though of a superior quality. In former days some provision was made for the more decent poor by the founding of almshouses, which was what may be called a "fashionable" mode of charity with our ancestors. The remarks on this subject by the late Bishop Armstrong are full of interest as bearing upon this point, and give a very true and touching picture of what the piety of our ancestors accomplished, and what we, their descendants, are neglecting. But, like other regrets for the past, it is useless and utterly vain as regards a remedy for present evils, and in as far as it proposes to bring back a former state of things. We cannot revive the habits of bygone ages if we would, and we may, therefore, believe it to be undesirable, in the order of God's providence, to do so. Another condition of affairs is come into existence, and our present work is to see that we make the best of it, checking as far as possible the evil, and encouraging and calling out the good in it. A system incapable of such a process as this ought not to belong to a Christian society. There may still be here and there persons who will act in the spirit Bishop Armstrong describes, and, moved by the memory of the past, will found almshouses for the refuge of the deserving poor.
"Where, I often ask, are the modern almshouses; where that old spirit of love for the poor, which those who have risen in the world ought to feel for those who are at the bottom of the hill? Where are those grateful offerings of the thriving tradesman, the prosperous merchant, who has carved out his own fortune, and by a good strong head has made his way upwards in the world? Where the love of the village, or the native town, and any goodly proofs of care for the worn-out, the infirm, the, who have now to be dragged from their old haunts and homes, and crowded into the dismal unions? Alas! it is but here and there, few and far between, that modern almshouses rise up, or that successful men think of providing for the last days of the destitute. It is more common to see the 'villas,' and the 'mansions,' and the 'places in the country,' absorbing the wealth amassed in the shop or the merchant's office, and the poor are left to boards of guardians and relieving officers, to that legal provision which, however well managed on the whole, does not pretend to do more than keep body and soul together in the cheapest way.
"It always strikes me as a very sad thing, to see old folks packed off from the place where they have spent their lives; and a quantity of old people from a multitude of places, each uprooted and torn from his accustomed home, huddled together, with all the physical and mental infirmities of age, strikes me as one of the most painful spectacles in the land. A place stripped of its old folks is a melancholy place, and a place filled with them equally melancholy. A park filled with nothing but young trees is but a poor concern to look at, and one filled with nothing but old and decayed ones equally wanting in excellence. What one likes is the mixture of the two; here and there the old oak, with its topmost branches bare, and its trunk hollow, and then some stalwart timber, middle aged trees, rich in foliage, spreading their broad shadows over the grass. So with towns or villages. We want all sorts among us, young cheeks and wrinkled ones, the curly-headed lads and white-haired old men. This makes up the goodly picture of human life. But to weed out the old, to rend away all the hoary heads of the poor, to pack off the stooping forms of the aged, to bundle them into one great workhouse, as if they were so much waste material, choking up the way of younger life, to tell them, in so many words, we have no reverence for them, no care, no love or compassion, but that they are in the way, and must be done for as cheaply as can be, is sad, sad work, which will make, at last, trade wither, and our wealth turn into poverty, and all our commercial successes to be without a blessing.
"We want a different state of things from this; and those thriving men, who have well-filled purses tinkling in their pockets, who have got on in life, who have risen from being shopmen to be shopkeepers, who have the highest stool in merchants' offices, and are now sitting in bankers' parlours, and have become partners in good substantial firms, whose name is worth so much money, and who 'stand high' among
business men, would do well to consider what is here said to them about almshouses."—Pp. 191—193.
Such a custom is more common in these days amongst societies than individuals; members belonging to various trades thus combine to provide for the poorer members of their craft. This, however, can but afford partial relief, and the only remedy for the state of things which Bishop Armstrong laments, is either to give the deserving poor a more comfortable shelter in our workhouses, or to supply the aged with sufficient out-door relief to enable their relations or friends to maintain them at home. This plan is much more practicable in the country than in London, and we do not see why there it should not be universally adopted. It is there chiefly that the attachment to home makes it desirable to do so. The fireside corner of the old cottage inhabited for the greater part of a life,—the village church in which worship has been offered, and in the churchyard of which rest the relations of the aged persons,—all these things have no parallel in our crowded cities, where homes are contained in one dreary room of a narrow street or court, and where the graves of a family are probably scattered in distant cemeteries. In the midst of such families, too, it is often impossible that the sick and aged can be maintained, where father, mother, and numerous children all share the same room for sleeping and living in. For these, therefore, a more comfortable asylum should be provided. The authoress of Sunshine in the Workhouse gives instances in which she has successfully arranged, by the aid of private assistance, to keep aged persons from the workhouse, and this seems to be a very legitimate mode of applying charity, and a likely means of encouraging persons to exert themselves in maintaining, at least partly, their aged relations. One shilling a week added to the 2s. 6d. allowed by the parish is found to be sufficient to keep them at home. The Bishop's picture of the assemblage of aged persons in the union is not overdrawn. Those who have not visited workhouses cannot believe how many there are in them who have absolutely no friends or relations. It is sad to see such on the "visiting days," and to hear them lament their loneliness. Are there none, therefore, to care for such as these, none to cheer the lonely heart and forlorn spirit, and be a friend to the friendless? The general impression that exists as to the class of persons who claim parochial relief is no doubt the real cause of whatever harshness may exist in the system. It is supposed that we are called upon to support the idle and able-bodied, who might work for their living, and this belief has brought in the suspicion that all are involved in the same contamination and degradation. And for the management of such persons officials of any sort are thought to be good enough; none, indeed, but those of a lower order would be connected with the work. The system is, therefore, carried out by boards of guardians (who, generally speaking, are chosen from the lower class of tradesmen in towns, and of farmers in the country) and by relieving officers; and for the internal management of large and difficult establishments, masters and matrons also of the lower middle class are selected. Under these circumstances it is hardly possible that the system can be otherwise than a harsh and unfeeling one. The total want of sympathy between the relievers and the relieved can produce no other result. The power and authority of masters and matrons may be considered almost unlimited; for, in some cases, they are the sole channels of communication between the poor and the guardians, and have, therefore, the power of giving their own version of everything that happens. How grossly this power is often abused will be gathered from some of the letters in Metropolitan Workhouses. It will hardly be believed, that in one instance the matron never spoke to one poor bed-ridden woman for two years, in revenge for an offence committed by her in simply answering a question of one of the guardians which was supposed to involve the matron in blame. Yet such a woman was thought to be capable of governing several hundred persons, and of inspiring respect at least, if not love.
We may remind our readers of the various and numerous classes of persons who come under the personal control of these officials; and we may here give a description of the first workhouse of London, the aim and intention of which was very much what it is, or rather, perhaps, should be, at the present day. "Bridewell Hospital was founded prior to, and in consequence of the want of, a national provision for the poor. It was intended as a provision for certain and specified classes of the poor, as a house of correction for vagrants and other suspected persons, and as an establishment for the training of children, when of proper age, in good occupation or science profitable to the commonwealth. It was, in fact, the first workhouse, the first house of correction, and the first reformatory in the kingdom; and it was intended as a relief, not only for the city of London, but for the suburbs of the same, and for the whole county of Middlesex." For an undertaking of such magnitude as is here described, some very efficient management is surely demanded. In many respects a supervision superior to that of hospitals is required, for there we have but one class of persons to deal with, viz., the bodily sick; here a variety of minds and characters as great as the different classes who are admitted, and all requiring judicious moral treatment.
The chief aim of those who have considered the subject of workhouse reform is to suggest a remedy for the present state of things in providing other influences that may impart some feeling and sympathy into the system. It is not an alteration of the system itself that is demanded, but rather the introduction of the law of love into it.
The publications we have named, excepting one, are written by women, and though they are of small dimensions, they may be taken as strong indications of a growing interest in the subject of which they treat. Women, therefore, may be said to have first enlisted public sympathy in behalf of the better management of our workhouses, as they have already done for the better management of our hospitals. And in matters connected with the poor, the sick, and the aged, it would seem to be especially the mission of women to work a reformation. In so doing, they will not only be blest themselves, but become the means of blessing to countless numbers. The object of Mrs. Jameson's book is to shew the necessity of men and women working together in the "communion of labour," and the truth of this principle is proved by the success of those institutions in which that law is obeyed. It can scarcely be said to be the case in our English workhouses, where the one matron and the pauper nurses are the sole representatives of the feminine influence so especially needed in every institution for the poor. If the theory is a true one, our disregard of it sufficiently accounts for all the failures and abuses in our institutions for the poor established by law. Poor law commissioners did not take this element into consideration in framing their new system of laws. Ladies have hitherto been told triumphantly by masters of workhouses that it is against the law that they should be admitted as visitors. Boards of guardians certainly neither contemplated nor desired the help of women in their ungracious task. They would be too tender-hearted, too sympathizing, or too meddling and interfering with that which belonged to men only. These and such like fears have haunted the minds of officials, and will continue to haunt them, for some time to come, to the exclusion of women from a large portion of what may be considered their proper sphere of work. The following remarks are made by Mrs. Jameson, in the preface to her first lecture, on "Sisters of Charity," and her wide experience of charitable institutions abroad enables her to write with confidence on the subject. Speaking of the numerous letters she has received on the subject of workhouses, she goes on to say:—
"Surely it is worth considering whether the administration of these institutions might not be improved by the aid of kindly and intelligent women sharing with the overseers the task of supervision.....
Can any one doubt that the element of power, disunited from the element of Christian love, must in the long run become a hard, cold, cruel machine? and that this must of necessity be the result where the masculine energy acts independent of the feminine sympathies? Since it is allowed on all hands that we want institutions for the training of efficient 'sisters of charity' for all offices connected with the sick, the indigent, the fallen, and the ignorant among us, why should not our parish workhouses be made available for the purpose? In such an application of means and funds already at hand, it appears to me that there would be both good sense and economy, therefore it ought to recommend itself to our so-called practical men."
The only step hitherto made in this direction has been the appointment of committees of lady visitors in two or three instances, and this, though apparently a small measure in itself, is in fact the introduction of an entirely new principle, which may in time be developed into much good. But "what is wanted," says Mrs. Jameson, "is a domestic, permanent, and ever-present influence, not occasional inspection. Then it may be asked. Where are we to find the women trained for such works as these, for we are far from saying that every woman is fitted for them? Even those most anxious to devote themselves to them require a training before they can enter upon such duties, and this is not easily attainable in England. It is true that there are opportunities now which there never were before in this country for learning in hospitals those duties in the care of the sick which should be taught to all women, and a knowledge of which would render every woman more useful in her station; but there is hardly yet the opportunity of acquiring that experience in more general matters connected with the poor which can be gained in the institution of Kaiserswerth near Dusseldorf.
The interesting account of this establishment is, it is well known, from the pen of Florence Nightingale, who acquired a great part of her practical education in the treatment of the sick within those walls, under the superintendence of the excellent Pastor Fliedner and his wife. At the present time there are one hundred and sixteen deaconesses in the institution, and according to their various inclinations and capacities they are distributed throughout the different departments of the house, devoted severally to the care of the sick, the insane, the fallen, and to the teaching of children. How admirably the plan has been carried out, and how its results have spread into distant lands, will be gathered from the pages of this pamphlet, as well as from the little book entitled, Kaiserswerth Deaconesses. Such an institution is urgently required in England, and ere now we had hoped to see it arise under the experienced guidance of one who must be universally acknowledged to be the fittest to undertake so arduous a work. We still hope to see this desire accomplished, and if so, a blessing will indeed have arisen out of the sorrows and calamities of war, and one to which all classes of our countrymen and countrywomen will have contributed, by the testimonial offered to Miss Nightingale. But till such an opportunity is offered, what fitter place for learning could be found than our workhouses, which are institutions for all classes and characters amongst the poor, if learners could be admitted into them under the sanction of some intelligent and superior governing power, who would welcome assistance and co-operation, and not reject it with jealousy and fear? It is encouraging to see what a few years have done for the advocates of this cause. Those who, before Miss Nightingale's mission to the Crimea, would have loudly denounced such proceedings as preposterous and impossible, now stand up publicly to uphold them. Women's work is boldly claimed for hospitals, and in many cases earnestly sought for. Not only is a superior class of women demanded for the lower offices in them (for the Mrs. Gamps are now beginning to be thought undesirable attendants upon the sick and dying), but women of education and refinement are desired, as a religious and humanizing and refining element, amidst scenes of temptation, sorrow, and suffering. Those who have the power of looking behind the scenes, and know the truth, can tell something of the need that exists for the introduction of such a superintending power as this. Hitherto the chief supervision of our hospitals has been exercised by the matron and medical men, who can only visit the wards occasionally, and at long intervals. At other times the nurses reign supreme, and how unfit they are, generally speaking, for a rule involving matters of life and death, is now beginning to be felt, and the true remedy applied. The patients, feeling the kindness and charity which admit them into these asylums, think it ungrateful to make complaints to the medical men, whatever they may hear and see, and so, many evils exist which never reach the ears of the officials. During their presence in the wards of course all is as it should be.
It is very desirable that England should possess a training school of her own for those who wish to learn and carry out any of the various works of charity which are calling for the assistance of women. Each nation must organize its own plans, and develop them in a national manner, if the result is to be successful. Germany has her "deaconesses," France and Italy their "sisters of charity" and of "mercy." In England we have also some institutions of "sisters," but it may be that here no general title will be given to those who volunteer for such works as these. "Lady superintendent," "lady nurses," "nursing sisters," are some of the names which have been already assumed, and which appear to be suited to our English tastes and habits. Those which have too much resemblance to the orders of the Romish Church have been rejected, for obvious reasons, for it is very desirable to avoid all suspicion of imitating the errors of those who carry out these good works abroad. It is clearly shewn, however, in the pamphlet on Kaiserswerth, that the original institution of such societies of women is derived from the primitive Church, and that Protestants have since then carried them out. It may be well to quote the remarks which bear upon this point: —
"We see, in the very first times of Christianity, an apostolical institution for the employment of woman's powers directly in the service of God. We find them employed as 'servants of the Church.' We read in the Epistle to the Romans of a 'deaconess,' as in the Acts of the Apostles of 'deacons.' Not only men were employed in the service of the sick and poor, but also women. In the fourth century, St. Chrysostom speaks of forty deaconesses of Constantinople. We find them in the Western Church as late as the eighth, in the Eastern as the twelfth century. When the Waldenses and the Bohemian and Moravian Brothers began to arise out of the night of the middle ages, we find in these communities, founded after the model of the apostolical institutions, the office of deaconesses, who were called presbyters, established in 1457. In the sixteenth century it is well known how Robert von der Mark, Prince of Sedan in the Netherlands, revived the institution of Protestant Sisters of Charity, and, instead of appropriating the revenues of the suppressed monasteries in his domains, devoted them to this purpose. In the first General Synod of the Evangelical Church of the Lower Rhine and the Netherlands, at Wesel, 1568, we find the office of deaconesses recommended, and in the Classical Synod of 1580, expressly established. In England they were not wanting. Among the Nonconformists, under Elizabeth, 1578, deaconesses were instituted during Divine service, and received amidst the general prayer of the community. The Pilgrim Fathers of 1602—1625, who were driven first to Amsterdam and Leyden, then to North America, carried their deaconesses with them. It thus appears that, long previous to the establishment of the orders of Sisters of Mercy by St. Vincent de Paul in 1633, the importance of the office of deaconess had been recognised by all divisions of Christians, and they accordingly existed free from vows or cloistered cells.
"So many believe this to be an institution borrowed from the Roman Catholic Church exclusively, and on that account are prejudiced against it, that we wish we had space to give the numerous other proofs of the existence of the office at different times, among all Churches, and earliest in those of the Protestant faith."
The following reason why the institution did not spread and flourish further in those days may equally account for the fact at the present day:—"There were no nursery grounds, preparatory schools for deaconesses, so that fitness for their office was, so to speak, accidental." The want has long been supplied in Protestant countries abroad; we trust we may soon be able to say that England has followed their example. The essentially Protestant title of "deaconess" has not been adopted here, though from its having belonged to the early primitive Church, as well as to the simple Protestants of later times, it would seem to he very unobjectionable. And there is much in the system carried out by these Protestant societies that would be well worthy of our imitation. The simple but solemn consecration of the deaconess to her work, involving no vows and no compulsion, gives a sanction and a degree of sanctity to it and to the labourer in the eyes of others, that it would be very desirable to cast around those who are exposed to so many temptations as the nurses in our public hospitals. It would be very desirable to have such respect shewn to them in the exercise of their office as we find abroad, where the physician lifts his hat to the humblest sister in the hospital. Such homage will hardly be yielded here unless more reverence is paid to the office and calling of a nurse than at present.
It is a good and hopeful sign that we are not disposed to imitate literally the customs of other countries, but rather to frame some mode of action which may be the national expression of the English mind. It is also a natural sign that help should be forthcoming with the need for it; that without any preconceived plan or system, workers should arise when they are needed. This has already been the case in emergencies, but the want of systematic training has been felt nevertheless, and spontaneous and zealous efforts alone will not suffice. As long as no systematic training is afforded we cannot wonder if many mistakes are made, and scattered and impulsive efforts here and there start up. The training which is given in the other countries of Europe proves the importance attached to the work, which is not to be undertaken lightly or without a due preparation, lasting for three, five, or even seven years. In England, where no vows or devotion for life would attend this training, it would be most desirable that women in general should be able to avail themselves of it, as well as those who intend to devote themselves exclusively to this work in after life. It might be made supplementary to the common school education, and in many respects it would be the most important part of it. A year spent in learning how to nurse the sick and take care of children, besides other matters of intercourse with the poor, would be a most valuable preparation for after life, wherever it might be spent. To those who were to become the wives of clergymen this training would be especially acceptable, and we might then hope to see fewer of such examples as are exhibited in the clever sketches of the Owlet of Owlstone Edge. There are many others also who would have reason to bless the preparation for their duties which this training would afford. Persons high in position in our colonies, now scattered over the globe, and settlers in new countries everywhere, may be called upon to perform duties for which the usual education of girls' schools in the common routine of learning and accomplishments would be quite useless. But whether at home or abroad, practical knowledge of this kind will always be desirable, if not absolutely necessary for the due fulfilment of a large portion of women's duties. It is now become the fashion to advocate the industrial training of girls of the lower classes. The need of it is nearly as great amongst the upper. A woman's life cannot be passed in either acquiring or displaying accomplishments, or even in the higher pursuit of learning for its own sake. A time of longing for practical work comes to all, and is at the root of the strenuous efforts after a married life which are made by the generality of young ladies after leaving school. The most natural field for woman's capacities is without doubt the management of a household and family, and there are some persons who maintain this to be the only legitimate and natural occupation of woman. It may be so. But there are many unnatural things in this world, things which are diverted from their original design and intention. And amongst them may perhaps be considered the fact that there are no fewer than 500,000 more women than men in this country, and who are not occupied with the care of their own families. Unnatural as this fact may be, we still ask for work for them to do, believing that many are longing and willing to do it, if it were possible to bring them and it together. Hitherto the customs of our country, and public opinion, the strongest of all barriers, has been against the opening out of any new line of action. But "the Chinese wall of prejudices" has, as Mrs. Jameson observes, at last been broken through, and the field is open to volunteers. Another generation, however, must grow up before it will be fully occupied, for many obstacles still exist, and many habits have to be overcome. None are asked to leave their homes, or the duties which are already placed before them, for the work that we are advocating; but it is offered to those who are standing all the day idle, and whom no man hath yet hired for the great work of life. It is not only to ladies that such employments would be found to be acceptable, but also to that large middle class of women who now go to swell the ranks of underpaid governesses and needlewomen. At present this class is widely separated from the poor and from works of charity in general. There is but little sympathy found for such in the daughters of tradesmen, who have it in their power to do so much in this field of work if they had but the inclination. Young women of this class do not now, as formerly, occupy themselves exclusively with household drudgery, as it is called, and no longer follow the good old paths of their grandmothers in the care of the house and family. It has always seemed to us, therefore, that their time must be in a great measure their own. What a valuable staff of assistants might they not prove in a parish, if their training had given them some feeling for and sympathy with the poor! Such a character as is depicted in the beautiful tale of Katharine Ashton has, we suspect, but few corresponding realities in the world of tradesmen's daughters. Happy would it be for themselves and others if it had more. The education that gives a smattering of learning and accomplishments which can never be of use either in teaching others or in refining their own minds, is all which seems hitherto to have been desired by this class of women. But it must be said in excuse that hardly any other education has been possible for them. The only teachers who have offered themselves were half educated persons of their own class, compelled to earn a precarious and scanty living in this manner; love and devotion, and even capacity for the work, being generally wholly wanting. We trust, however, that a better day is dawning upon this most important but long-neglected branch of education, and that ere long we may see many efforts successfully carried out in the way of improvement. The gradual advance in middle class schools is as needful amongst boys as girls, if we would look for more enlightenment and intelligent benevolence amongst our future guardians of the poor and ratepayers, who have so much power in their hands as regards the management of the class whose grievances we have been considering.
At the present time in England we are unable to find workers for the comparatively few spheres in which their help is called for. We have no source to which we can send with the certainty of obtaining a supply. In the other countries of Europe, where orders of women devoted to the care of the poor and sick have long been organized, some "mother house" is always ready to provide the help that is asked from it. And here we are induced to inquire how it is that France and Italy, where the education of women is so greatly inferior to that of our own high standard, produce women of tact, discretion, and mental powers equal to the government of communities of their own sex, and of charitable establishments of the most varied and difficult character? Such communities must be as liable to division and dissension arising from the evil tempers of human nature in one country as another, yet they exist, and have done so for centuries. In Mrs. Jameson's Communion of Labour, accounts are given of hospitals, penitentiaries, and even prisons, which are managed by women. A remarkable prison near Vienna is described, containing two hundred of the most degraded female criminals, which was under the government of twelve women, no male officials residing in the house. And there are numerous establishments in which women are not only the attendants, but the actual heads and governors. At Turin is a "Female Community," consisting of four hundred members, women of all ages, maintaining themselves by their united labour, and they are ruled by a superior elected from among themselves; they live in unity and peace under this controlling power, and have existed as a community for a century. Whatever the system may be, there must be great individual power and talent necessary to maintain such a government as this. The common school-girl training would hardly suffice here. The characters that could form and carry on these works will be made in spite of, rather than by, it, for merely benevolent impulses or sentimental charity are not equal to such demands. The difficulty in England will probably be found to be the necessity of obedience to rules and to a supreme power. Obedience implies confidence in, and reverence for, the power which claims it; a blind submission the best amongst us are not inclined to yield, and till women are duly trained to become the superintendents of others, and fitted for the special work they are to carry on, we cannot hope for success.
Looking forward into the future, we can picture to ourselves a Model Workhouse; but whether the vision will be realized in ten, twenty, or fifty years, we cannot say. Mrs. Jameson, in speaking of the progress of such matters in England, says, "For about ten years, perhaps, the means of carrying it out may be considered and debated; in another ten years some plan will be proposed; and in another ten years perhaps adopted; for such is the usual progress of any great moral movement in ' that other public,' " whom we must influence.
We can but endeavour to hasten its advent by shewing the necessity of a change in the present system, not by exaggerating its defects, but by exhibiting its true working. At the head of such a workhouse should be a woman of education, judgment, and, above all, of religious devotion to her work; with a heart full of love for young and old, sick and poor, because they are a sacred charge committed to her care. And for this superintendence a woman would seem to be the fittest person, comprising as it does, the sick and aged, children, the outcast, and the fallen. But in the due adjustment of the "Communion of Labour" (from the forgetfulness of which law our errors hitherto have arisen), the lady superintendent (as she might be fitly called) must have the assistance of the other sex in her arduous labours. We might hope that to such a person gain would not be an object, therefore additional expense would not be incurred here; but the appointment of one who should correspond to the secretaries of our hospitals, with a salary superior to that which is now given to the masters of workhouses, would prove to be money well spent in the end. He would take the superintendence of financial matters, and exercise authority over the male departments of the house. Then, as in prisons, the chaplain should be a much more important person than at present, either resident, or at least with no other duties to occupy his time, which should be entirely devoted to the inmates in cases where the numbers amount to many hundreds. At present, the chaplain's office is often filled in the most unsatisfactory manner. The wards cannot be visited more than once or twice a week, when he comes in and reads a prayer to all the inmates of a ward at once; he probably then asks the master if "anything particular" is wanted in the population of seven or eight hundred, or it may be even more, of sick, dying, and vicious persons under his care, and hearing that "nothing particular" is wanted, he hurries off to a parish containing some thousands, who are also in his charge, and where he probably will find "something particular" to do. This part of the subject is also beginning to excite attention, and a "ratepayer" has lately written to a country newspaper, to urge the appointment of a chaplain on the same terms, and with the same advantages, as those offered in prisons. Such a task as we have described could not be carried out by any one superintendent alone. There must be many fellow-workers with her, both men and women, who will be the responsible heads of each separate department of the house. Under such a superintendence as this, why should not girls be trained to fulfil all the duties of the laundry and the kitchen, and so be fitted for respectable service, instead of being left the whole day to their own evil and idle gossip, as they sit over their oakum picking, unchecked by any superior authority, or by the presence of any one above them in position? The band of workers within doors would be cheered and encouraged by the addition of "lady visitors," who would infuse new life and energy into the work. Their assistance might also be extended to the out-door department, where it would be most valuable in discovering and checking imposture, as well as in softening the harsh treatment of the relieving officers towards the decent poor. We care not what name be given to such an association of workers, so that the work done be a reality. The fact of several women combining to carry out a task obviously impossible to one person, need not imply any adherence to particular opinions or to a party; and we believe that it would prove attractive to many who do not wish to devote themselves exclusively either to the care of the sick or to the education of the young. We admit, however, that no such work could be carried out or sustained without it was supported by a strong religious devotion and zeal.
Until some such plan as this which we have attempted to sketch out is adopted, we shall not wonder if our great palace or prison-like unions continue to be regarded with scorn by those who see our ostentatious displays of charity, made without a comprehension of the only true principles on which they can be successfully carried out. And let us observe that these abodes of poverty are regarded with hatred and dread, not by the idle and vicious, whom we might wish to deter from partaking of the charity of the nation, but by the decent, the helpless and afflicted poor, who have no other refuge than that which is offered them within the dreary walls of the union. Let there be justice, stern and uncompromising, for the offender and those who will not work, but let there be discrimination between such and the large class of applicants on whose claims we have dealt in the preceding pages. At all events, let it not be made for any a degrading and deteriorating system; and to prevent this, we must enforce a complete classification and an efficient superintendence The subject has been little thought of hitherto, for it has been considered one of the settled facts that the system worked well enough and needed no improvement. Now we have no longer the excuse that its defects are unknown, for at the present day all our social faults and miseries are dragged forth to light; we regard it as a hopeful sign of increasing interest that a sub-committee has been appointed in the Social Economy Department of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, for the special consideration of the subject of workhouse management; and when once we are convinced of an error, and have in due time attempted to apply a remedy, we do not often relapse into it. A step once made is a step gained, and from it we may hope to advance to another. In this instance the first step may be considered to be the appointment of lady visitors in a few instances, which we may hope will gradually become more numerous.
This plan may do much, but nothing but all-pervading influence of a higher kind can fully meet the evils we have been considering. A pamphlet entitled the Duty of Workhouse Visitation, and How to do it, dwells chiefly on the point of lady visitors for the purpose of spiritual instruction and consolation to the inmates, and even this would be a great gain, but it is not all that we would aim at accomplishing in our task of reform. Such gross neglect and abuse of power as are described in the Report of the St. Pancras workhouse, drawn up by Dr. Bence Jones, call more loudly for redress than any such plan alone could offer. A perusal of this paper, or even a glance at it, will convince our readers that we have magnified none of the evils we have stated. It is indeed a disgrace to the history of a Christian country in the nineteenth century to have statements like these displayed to the eyes of the world. Dr. Bence Jones concludes with these words:—"Such a state of things ought not to be tolerated by the Government." The first step to be taken in the correction of evils of such magnitude must be the appointment of guardians who will see and correct abuses; indeed, this seems to be as absolutely necessary to any improvement in the system as the selection of a better class of superintendents. On this point we may direct attention to a suggestion in which the true remedy is pointed out. If the more respectable inhabitants of a parish would interest themselves in the election of guardians, and moreover would become guardians themselves, the power would no longer be left in the hands of the very incompetent persons who, generally speaking, at present exercise it. And we may ask, why should not gentlemen be found who would devote time to the management of workhouses as well as of hospitals and other charitable institutions?
We have endeavoured to point out some of the remedies which appear to be within our reach; and in directing the attention of women to the field of work which lies before them, we would remind them that the benefit of their entering it will not be for the poor only. The life spent for others will be at least as happy and as healthful as that of the solitary "old maid," who dwells upon her own petty sorrows and ailments (and perhaps creates them) because she has no other object for her thoughts and no call for her affections. Here is work waiting for her to do. Let her come forward and claim it. Let it not be said that there are no "sisters of charity" here, as in other lands, but let us prove that we also have hands and hearts willing to serve in the same cause. And there is ample variety offered for all tastes and capacities. There are young and old, sick and healthy, pious and vicious, all needing the skilful and judicious care of the well trained and educated mind. It is a sad instance of the ignorant prejudice which is ever opposed to the introduction of change and improvement, that even where help of this kind is offered, it is still obstinately rejected, for men have not yet learnt to see that it is for their own interest to accept it. Every imaginable reason is alleged against admitting ladies to a share in this work. Religious differences are brought forward in some cases as an insuperable objection; and universally, it may be said, the feeling of the guardians is against it, and in favour of closing the workhouse doors to all but official inspection and management. Whether Government will give its aid and sanction in this matter, or leave the contest with public opinion, to be fought, step by step, during a gradual process of years, remains to be seen. We have even heard of the wife of a bishop being refused admission as a visitor into a neighbouring union; and in cases where it is permitted to a few ladies to enter, it is done as it were by stealth, and to be ignored by the guardians is all that is hoped for or expected. If masters are in the least disposed to dislike the "interference," as it is called, they have full power to make a complaint to the guardians, who invariably listen to their story, and the visitors are probably dismissed. Even gentlemen have been treated in this manner, without the opportunity of making a defence. We fear, therefore, that the hope expressed a year ago on this point is still far from being realized.
The following extract gives the result of one instance in which a lady missionary was permitted to visit the apparently hopeless inmates of a workhouse, and it shews what one loving and disinterested heart may do, though boards of guardians still desire to ignore the testimony, and deem themselves, or at least one chaplain, all-sufficient for the work:—
"In the course of the past year eighty-four visits have been paid to the workhouse, where the Scriptures and religious books have been read to more than a thousand persons, and where the kind reception she meets with shews how highly valued her visits are. There she is enabled not only to visit the sick and aged, but to penetrate into the depths of their sin and misery, and to carry light and hope into the midst of darkness and despair. Softened and brought to their senses by long seclusion, and longing to lead a better life when they leave it, they are ready to listen as little children to the Word of Life, and look for the visits of their teacher, as one of them said, 'as if she was our mother.'"
We may conclude with the hope that many will be induced to "go and do likewise," and with an earnest desire that guardians may in time learn to see that it is their interest as well as their duty to encourage the visits of those who are able to undertake and carry out a work which, with the best intentions, they would be unable themselves to perform. We trust that a better day has begun to dawn upon the dreary night of workhouse management, and that our non-criminal poor may ere long receive a share of that benevolent zeal and interest which is now so largely bestowed upon the criminal portion of our population.
- Sir F. B. Head—Essays Contributed to the Quarterly Review: see "English Charity."
- The following list gives the number of inmates in some of the metropolitan unions on Christmas Day, 1856:—Marylebone, 1,966; St. Pancras, 1,639; Lambeth, 1,056; St. George-in-the-East, 1,205; St. Matthew, Bethnal Green, 1,110; Whitechapel, 1,044; Stepney, 1,006. Others contain numbers varying between 200 and 1,000.
"Of the 11,310 who thus closed their career not in their own homes, 6,552 died in workhouses."—Registrar General's Report, 1856.
- In fact, the difference is rather the other way. Persons going to prison, and confessing that it was for the sake of obtaining relief, have been asked, why they did not apply for it at the workhouse? They have actually replied, "They did not like the disgrace of doing so." Yet they could commit an offence against the laws, and enter a prison, without feeling that they had contracted any degradation! We are strongly inclined to believe that it is the general management of prisons being felt to be so superior to that of workhouses, that raises them in the estimation of the lower classes, who, even the worst among them, are keenly alive to justice and fair treatment. One of the most refractory female prisoners in a large prison told the magistrates, "she knew she should receive justice from them."
The following are the salaries given respectively in prisons and workhouses:—
Prison for 900 Prisoners. Workhouse for 500 or 600 Inmates. PER ANNUM. PER ANNUM. £ £ s. d. Governor 600 Master 80 0 0 Matron 125 Matron 50 0 0 Chaplain (with residence) 250 Chaplain 100 0 0 Assistant Chaplain, ditto 180 Surgeon 78 15 0 Surgeon 220 Taskmaster 25 0 0 Gate Porter 70 Gate Porter 25 0 0 And 45 paid officials besides. No other paid official.
The salaries in workhouses vary considerably. Sometimes it is £80 for master and matron together. We believe the highest salary given is £150 for a master. A chaplain receives in some cases as little as £30.
- Whether the dietary is actually better or not, there is no doubt that the cooking is far superior, owing to the better class of officers and the more careful supervision of prisons.
- In March, 1856, there were 51,586 children in the workhouses of England and Wales; of these 12,083 were orphans.
- Appendix, p. 37.
- Lest the plan should be objected to on the score of expense, we will subjoin a statement of the comparative cost of maintenance in the Norwich homes and in the workhouse, including washing and firing:—"In the latter, 2s. 10d. per week; in the boys' home, 2s. 3½d., which the earnings of the boy reduce by 9¼d., leaving the real weekly expense 1s. 6¼d. The earnings, however, are brought in by only 15 working boys out of 64 inmates, the rest being schoolboys; so that if the earnings of the 15 boys were appropriated only to themselves, they would more than pay for their maintenance. The girls' home is 2s. 9¾ d., a little less than the workhouse. There is thus a decided direct pecuniary saving effected by the establishment of institutions, of which the indirect saving, even in a temporary and worldly point of view, is incalculable."
- The numbers in the largest Metropolitan District Union Schools in the first week of January, 1856, were as follows:— Central London, 1,178; North Surrey, 667; South Metropolitan, 748; St. George-in-the-East, 404; Whitechapel, 2,992; Lambeth, 507; Stepney, 450.
- Extract from the Report of an inspector of pauper schools for 1855:—" I have been assured that the number of Kirkdale children (the district school for Liverpool) who after their discharge from the school have become inmates of the Liverpool workhouse, amounts to some hundreds, and that many of these were females under the most disgraceful circumstances. There were at one time, in the Liverpool penitentiary for fallen females, eleven Kirkdale girls, out of whom it was found necessary to dismiss four for bad conduct … More, assuredly, is practicable than has hitherto been accomplished; but it remains to he proved whether any person can exercise a sufficient moral influence over so large a number of girls allowed to associate together in the same building. As far as I know at present, no girls' school appears to be morally more unsuccessful in this district than the largest."
- We cannot refrain from remarking here how important it is to secure the services of really superior and lady-like women to superintend these large establishments;—persons who would be capable of managing the household, and yet who would be looked up to with respect by the teachers, male and female (who now feel themselves the superiors in education), as well as by the guardians and other inspectors.
- Extract from Mr. G. Bowyer's Report on Pauper Schools for 1855:—"I have, ever since I have been an inspector, endeavoured to ascertain what was the subsequent conduct of the children who have left the school in which they were educated and trained. In some workhouses, where either the workhouse master, the schoolmaster, or the chaplain happened to take an interest in the same question (and these were generally well-conducted establishments in regard to the education and training of the children), the answers I received to my questions were definite and satisfactory. But, in the majority of instances, the only thing that was known on the subject was, whether the children returned to the workhouse or not, and what situations some of them occupied." In some of the district schools it is part of the chaplain's work to visit the children in their different situations for two years after they leave. We cannot help thinking that this is a portion of the work which might well be performed by women. Why should not ladies in each parish of the union be appointed to visit the girls, and keep up a friendly intercourse with them, which surely could be done by them as efficiently as by the chaplain, whose time must be fully occupied in the schools? Many of the boys sent out from district schools are said to be doing very well in Australia, in good situations. A proposal has been made to receive the boys and girls from these schools into our colonies, where thousands of them would be gladly employed. It would be a more hopeful experiment than that lately tried of sending out grown-up girls from our unions, after they have already been a considerable expense to their parishes, and have, many of them, acquired a sad experience of vice. The complete industrial training given to both boys and girls in these schools would fit them admirably for life in the colonies, and it would surely be a wise policy to adopt such a measure.
- And it is a fact, that when able women are by chance found as nurses, the guardians often do not choose to keep them as inmates; indeed, it is not likely they will remain without more encouragement than is held out to them. If even some distinction were made in their dress, there would be more chance of their being respected by their fellow-inmates.
- Besides these there are the diseased and incapacitated children leaving the schools, who, unable to gain a living, must find a home in the workhouse after the age of fourteen or sixteen.
- At a recent visit of the Commissioner of Lunacy to a London workhouse, he recommended that pictures and other objects of an enlivening character should be added to the ward for the insane. We suppose this would hardly be objected to even by those who fear to make the workhouse "too comfortable." Another recommendation in the same direction was given lately by the committee of St. Luke's Hospital, that visitors, both ladies and gentlemen, should be admitted to the patients; it is encouraging to our cause to find that the following resolution was passed. These visits, it was said, "would prove a comfort to the inmates at the time, and materially assist in the united labours for the amelioration of their condition. Recent events had plainly shewn what the women of England would undertake when the objects in view were the relief of misery and the succour of the distressed."
- Communion of Labour, p. 91.
- May we not account for the prevailing impression as to the character of workhouse inmates, by the fact that the public hear nothing of the dreary existence of the quiet and decent old people, but only of those younger inmates, whose conduct not unfrequently causes their removal to a court of justice, and thence to prison?
- The following is the testimony of a medical officer on the subject of the under-payment of needlewomen:—"Mr. Burch said he had been connected with the London Hospital for eleven years, and for five years with the Whitechapel Union. A large number of patients had been under his care, and he had carefully investigated a considerable number of cases, and was satisfied that needlewomen were the most ill-paid class of people, and the most hardworking on earth. He knew that numbers of them, with constitutions broken down, earned from 3s. to 4s. per week only, and for that very scanty pittance were compelled to work from three o'clock in the morning till ten at night."
A fact which will confirm the above testimony is taken from the Times of the 22nd January, 1858:—"A young woman was brought up for pledging trousers intrusted to her to make by Ellas Mears. A wholesale dealer in clothes gave materials for trousers to a man named Harris, who undertook to return them finished at 1s, per pair. Harris has a machine which effectually performs the stitching portion of the labour, and for that he received one-half of the 1s., giving Mears the remainder to complete the work. Mears in turn engaged the prisoner, and furnished her with twist, thread, &c., on the understanding that she was to receive 3½d. for finishing the job; but she, as alleged, having a child to support, and a husband who had deserted her, found the pittance accruing from her labours at this price insufficient to purchase necessaries, yielded to temptation and pledged the trousers, after finishing them, for 7s. A tailor in court observed that the materials probably cost from 8s. to 9s., and would be sold at 18s. Mears, whose cadaverous features and ill-clad body indicated an equal state of poverty with the prisoner's, said he only got about three-halfpence for his share after purchasing the small materials, and he had not any money to redeem the trousers." The magistrate may well have observed that "it was clear that this was a system which gradually ground to the dust the workpeople." The following cases of distress are selected from several in Southwark:—"A widow, making shirts at 4d. each, by hard work earns 3s. a week. Another earns a scanty subsistence by converting strips of leather into buttons for leather gaiters, being paid 1½d. per gross, consisting of thirteen dozen. By her utmost efforts she can make two gross a day, earning 1s. 6d. per week. Another makes a dozen collars for 7½d." In cases of private employment the remuneration is in many instances as bad; a poor widow, trying to maintain her family, is occupied in the making of paper bags for a large warehouse, receiving 6d. for a thousand of them, providing the paste; and when they are finished, she has to pay for their conveyance to their destination.
- P. 36.
- Practical Working of the Church in Spain. Rev. J. Meyrick.
- See Metropolitan Workhouses, p. 44.
- Life of Bishop Armstrong, p. 191.
- Extract from Mr. J. B. Browne's Report of Pauper Schools for 1855:—"There are many workhouses in which classification is impossible, which are, therefore, necessarily schools of vice, and which, as I conceive, the legislature would not suffer to continue open year after year if all that occurs in them were publicly known. H—— workhouse in Lancashire may not be the worst in my district because there are many so very bad that it is hard to say which is entitled to that pre-eminence." The inspection does not, therefore, seem to be a sufficient remedy for such cases as these. In some instances it takes place at intervals of one or two years. Even gross outward and material defects could hardly be discovered by such a process, and the moral state of things could not possibly be known.
- The following description is from the graphic pen of Sir F. B. Head, and though the scene was one belonging to the state of things prior to the new poor law, yet the picture is equally true at the present time, and must be familiar to every one who has visited workhouses. In one room he finds a group of "worn-out men, with nothing to do, with nothing to cheer them, with nothing in this world to hope for, with nothing to fear: gnarled into all sorts of attitudes, they look more like pieces of ship-timber than men. In another room are seen huddled together in similar attitudes, a number of old, exhausted women, clean, tidy, but speechless and deserted. In large, airy bedrooms, we found men and women all bed-ridden. As we passed between two ranges of tressels almost touching each other, nothing was to be seen but a set of wrinkled faces, which seemed more dead than alive. Many had been lying there for years; many had been inmates of the poorhouse for fourteen, fifteen, and eighteen years; few seemed to have any disorder. They were wanting nothing, asking for nothing, waiting for nothing, but their death." Elsewhere he gives the following suggestions for the treatment of such persons:—"As to the provision for the aged, the commissioner submitted to the opinion of the meetings, that, instead of being thrown amongst children and young men and women, their comforts would be materially increased by their being kept together. He asked whether quietness was not one of the kindest charities which could be bestowed on age? Whether a diet as well as a home, might not he provided for them properly suited to their infirmities? and last, though not least (if there was no one to deprive them of this benefit), whether many additional comforts and indulgences might not be granted to old people, beyond what could or should be afforded for every description of applicants?" In the last sentence lies one of the chief suggestions which we are now urging upon the attention of our readers. It was thought that the new system would cease to attract the aged poor to the workhouse, as well as the able-bodied. It has not been found, however, that they can be excluded, and notwithstanding the system of repulsion rather than of attraction which has been adopted, some urgent necessity seems still to compel a large number of aged poor to seek the shelter of the union. It will be greatly for the interest of those who enter from absolute need, that persons not in such circumstances should be discouraged or excluded, for then we should lose the suspicion that all are the undeserving, or at least such as might otherwise be provided for. In some instances we have seen very praiseworthy and humane arrangements made by boards of guardians for the aged poor; one ward being set apart for the occupation of the more deserving married couples, or those who have been ratepayers in the parish; separate compartments are provided for them, and thus those who have spent their lives together are not divided at the close, but are able to nurse and tend each other to the last. It is a miserable sight, when aged couples drag out their dreary existence under the same roof, but are unable to meet or hold any communication.
- The facts that are continually being brought to light about matters of workhouses must have enlightened the public by this time as to the character of many of them. Bad ones are passed on from one board of guardians to another, just as servants frequently go from one family to another, their true characters concealed by their masters, who are glad to get rid of them. A very general horror is entertained by the poor of burial by "the parish." It seems to be a lingering spirit of reverence for the dead which, though often unreasonable in individual instances, we are unwilling to blame. For who can wonder at it when revelations are occasionally made like those which have recently appeared in the newspapers, of the master of a workhouse trafficking with the bodies of the dead, and changing them at the hospitals, so that friends and relations cannot be sure who it is they are following to the grave? It is a very general belief, or at least suspicion, amongst the poor that the bodies of paupers are placed in their coffins without clothing of any kind. We know that this was done a few years ago, but we cannot speak with certainty of the present time. There may well be a prejudice against pauper funerals!
- The Institution of Kaiserswerth, on the Rhine.
- By a Lady. (Masters.)
- Under the present system, matrons undertake the important posts of superintending institutions containing several hundred inmates, without any previous experience of management, or even of intercourse with the poor generally. We shall never have better results till there are training institutions (which might be the workhouses), where both men and women may prepare themselves for their work, as is universally the case abroad. It seems to us that the true method of training for work is now being tried in the North-West London Preventive and Reformatory Institution, where the future masters of similar establishments are trained in the midst of the work, and amongst the persons whom they are hereafter to govern. Sir F. B. Head says:—"The central board has no power to punish the vicious, no right to revile the improvident, no authority to neglect the impotent. Their wants alone constitute their legal passport to relief; it is to be administered to them with an equal attention to generosity on the one hand, and justice on the other." Surely, therefore, this being the case, it is more important to provide some government that is capable of exercising a moral influence and discrimination in matters connected with the poor. "It is essential to woman's success in undertaking any higher employment, to wit, that she must undergo special training for her work, as any one of the other sex must undergo special training for his work. Dilettante visiting, desultory fits of charity, must give way to serious application, laborious preparation, and long study."—Industrial and Social Position of Women, p. 280.
As long as masters and matrons must (generally speaking) be husband and wife, it is hardly probable that both should be well fitted for their work, which, we repeat again, demands an especial training and devotion. Mrs. Jameson* has remarked upon what she calls the "morale of dress," and its influence on all ranks. She justly censures the tawdry and unsuitable attire adopted by nurses when no uniform costume is provided. We cannot help alluding to the no less unsuitable style of dress worn by matrons. The governor of a large prison has expressed his conviction that a great proportion of crime amongst female prisoners has its origin in a love of dress and finery. Can it be wise, therefore, to allow matrons to deck themselves out with gay ribbons and artificial flowers in the eyes of those very persons to whom we wish to make them objects of respect and examples of modesty? Those who have seen and admired the perfectly neat and simple costume worn by the deaconesses of Kaiserswerth, as well as by their excellent "mother," Madame Fliedner, may understand something of the moral influence which may be exercised even in such apparently trifling matters as these, and make comparisons not flattering to ourselves at home.
^* Communion of Labour, p. 96.
- The beautiful service for Ordination is given in the Appendix to Kaiserswerth Deaconesses, and we earnestly recommend it to the attention of our readers.
- The following notice of proceedings in the recent meeting of Convocation (February, 1858) gives this proposal, which seems to shew that women's work is beginning to take its place in the minds of the most serious. It was proposed, "That this house do agree to present to his grace the Archbishop and to the Bishops of the Upper House, a respectful address, praying their lordships to deliberate and agree on certain rules by which women, whose hearts God has moved to devote themselves exclusively to works of piety and charity, may be associated on terms and conditions distinctly known as those which the Church of England has sanctioned and prescribed."
- "Take of these 500,000 superfluous women only the one-hundredth part, say 5,000 women, who are willing to work for good, to join the communion of labour, under a directing power, if only they knew how—if only they could learn how best to do their work, and if employment were open to them, what a phalanx it would be if properly organized!"—Sisters of Charity, p. 61.
- Sisters of Charity, p.66.
- We have no expectation that this will be immediately, or ever universally, possible. Meantime, we may try the plan of placing persons of superior power and intelligence over these establishments, by raising the salaries given to masters and matrons.
- In large establishments the appointment of a steward or storekeeper would be necessary, and economical in preventing waste.
- We thankfully admit that there are many honourable exceptions to this description, in devoted and hard-working chaplains of unions, to whom the inmates look as their only friend. But when other and important duties interfere it is impossible that the time should be given to this work which it requires. Inexperienced young men, to whom the salary would often be as good as that of a curacy, are not considered fitted for the post.
- To the idle and able-bodied the workhouse should be really a place of hard work, which can only be enforced amongst the women by an efficient superintendence of their own sex. Why should the strong girls be allowed to wander up and down passages, or sit about on the stairs gossiping with one another, as every visitor to a workhouse knows they do at present, when the matron's eye is not upon them? The regular worker's in the different departments of the house do not like to be interrupted by their desultory and imperfect assistance; there is the more need, therefore, for some special care and training for them.
- We are glad to hear of instances in which ladies and gentlemen are beginning to visit workhouses on Sundays, for the purpose of reading and praying with those (the larger number in every workhouse) who are unable to attend the chapel services. In one case some young men, under the sanction of the chaplain, attend for this purpose, and much gratitude is expressed for this work, especially by those inmates who have been long deprived of hearing the Church prayers. Where the chaplain has Sunday duties elsewhere, it is impossible for him to visit the wards. We do not yet acknowledge as we ought how highly voluntary work is appreciated by the poor and afflicted. They know that the clergy in parishes and chaplains in institutions are paid for their ministrations amongst them, but the visit arising solely from the motive of sympathy and love works with greater influence upon the heart.
At the recent inspection (if we may so call it) of the vast parish of Islington, by the Bishop of London, it was cheering to find that the workhouse was not forgotten, and that the sick and forlorn inmates had the comfort of seeing, and hearing words of exhortation from, the chief pastor of the diocese.
- We have hardly left ourselves space to enter on the subject of the employment of inmates of workhouses. The object was treated in a paper sent to the Meeting for Social Science at Birmingham, by Mrs. De Morgan. The plans suggested are partly carried out in some workhouses, where tailors and shoemakers are employed to superintend the work of the inmates, and where the making of bread for the establishment is done in the house; wood-chopping is also provided as an occupation. Mrs. De Morgan also suggests the practicability of slightly remunerative employment, and especially urges industrial training for the young, so that "workhouses, from being the lowest step on the downward ladder, might form the first of an ascending scale, and arrest the idle and vicious in their certain course to prison."
- See Letter, p. 54, Metropolitan Workhouses and their Inmates.
- Everywhere we hear of gentlemen resigning their posts as guardians, because of the opposition of the majority, whose ignorance and vulgarity cannot be tolerated by them. It is the same in the country as in towns, the ill-educated and narrow-minded have the upper hand, and generally succeed in their endeavours to get rid of their opponents. The following is the description of the state of things existing in the union of a distant country town:—"I can hardly conceive anything more hopeless than the management of our union. There is not one gentleman in all this country-side who takes any part as guardian in the administration of affairs. Some did at first, years ago, but they were defeated by the determined and systematic tactics of the farmers, who wished to get the management entirely into their own hands, and the consequence was, most unfortunately, that all the gentlemen retired in disgust. From that day to this, the farmers have had it all their own way. The chairman is a small farmer in this parish, and our guardian is a most unfit person, of bad character, but nevertheless is much thought of both by the other guardians and by the Poor Law Board, because he is a capital hand at keeping down the rates. We all know what this means, when applied to the poor, the aged, and the infirm." It is justly asked, "What co-operation could be expected in any system of lady visitors from such persons as these?"
- Ratepayers have no more privileges of admission than any other visitors, and must keep to the visiting days.
- We would repeat here that there will be far less reason to dread interference and confusion from the visits of ladies, if they are authorized by the guardians and chaplain, than if they are made, as at present, in a desultory way, without any supervision or co-operation from those in authority. Occasionally, when the visits of ladies have been hinted at, masters have replied that if such were permitted they should resign their posts! What can more clearly prove that there are some things which women would discover to be wrong? We do not think it is flattering to the women with whom these men associate that they express so much dread of the " interference" of the other sex.
- "There is no lack of institutions, the doors of which will be thrown wide open to our English ladies as soon as they knock at them. We are not yet prepared to say that the workhouse is one of them. There may be some prejudice and exclusiveness to contend against at the outset. Doubtless there are vested interests in misrule, any interference with which will be proclaimed unpardonable heresy. But they cannot last long. The good sense and good feeling of the many must prevail over the selfishness and intolerance of the few. We are becoming every day more and more alive to the fact that what is called 'efficient control' is for the most part very inefficient in respect of the practical development of the workhouse system, as every humane person would desire to see it developed."—"Employment of Women " North British Review, Feb. 1857.