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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.t
In concluding our remarks upon this portion of the subject, we may quote the statistics given by Mrs. Jameson I 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
* 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 this recommendation was adopted. These visits, it was said, " would prove to be 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 shown 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.
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
* May we not account for the prevailing impression as to the character of workhouse inmates, by the fact that the public hear 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
“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 220 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 the invariable rule that they enter it through their own fault. A 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 and 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 us that they yearn for this more than for an increase of bodily comforts.”
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
nothing of the dreary existence of the quiet and decent old people, but only of those younger inmates, whose conduct not frequently causes their removal to a court of justice, and thence to prison ?
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 underpayment of the employed, till the actual making of clothing and other articles, even for Government purposes, receives 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, showing 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 and 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 to 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 a year longer, I should say that she must have been ruined for life. These Spanish children when they grow up go to 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