Зображення сторінки

England they were not wanting. Among the Nonconformists, under Elizabeth, 1578, deaconesses were instituted during divine service, and received amidst the general prayers 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 order of Sisters of Mercy by St. Vincent de Paul in 1633, the importance of the office of deaconess had been recognized 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 simple but solemn consecration of the deaconess to her work,* involving no vows and no compulsion, gives a sanction

* The beautiful service for ordination is given in the Appendix to "Kaiserswerth Deaconesses," and we earnestly recommend it to the attention of our readers.

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 shown 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 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. 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 class. 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 strenous 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 con

sidered 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 rank 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,

* "Take of these 500,000 superfluous women only the onehundredth part, say 5000 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.

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 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 among boys as girls, if we would look for more enlight

* By Miss Sewell.

« НазадПродовжити »