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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. I The following extract gives the result of one
* 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.
I “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 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 instance in which a lady missionary was permitted to visit the apparently hopeless inmates of a workhouse, and it shows what a 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 shows 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
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, February, 1857.
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.
A SCHEME FOR BEFRIENDING ORPHAN
I VENTURE to propose that as many of us as are able should form ourselves into associations for the purpose of befriending, as far as may be, and taking the oversight of, those orphan pauper girls under the age of sixteen, whose constituted protectors are the elected guardians of
I would suggest that the proposed associations should each of them be organized within the limits of a county, and consist of branch societies, which we might previously originate in the different Poor Law Unions. To effect this, some lady in each union, interested in the well-being of orphan pauper girls, might take upon
herself the management of forming one such branch society, and proceed, within the union, to obtain particulars relating to those girls who belong to that district. The master of the workhouse and the relieving officers could give her the required information. Such a self-constituted manager or secretary, having made a list of the orphans, might take opportunities of engaging the sympathies of charitably disposed persons in their behalf, and induce them to enroll their names as members of her particular branch of the projected association. When in each of several unions in a county there had been established a branch society, consisting of a secretary and enrolled members, the secretaries might request some lady of high standing in the county to consent to be their president. A vicepresident might next be appointed from among the secretaries of the county, who should transact the general business of the association.
In the county of Wilts, in which I live, there are eighteen unions ; so that if my scheme should be adopted, there would be eighteen ladies taking the superintendence and conducting charities for the benefit of the orphan pauper girls in the county.* By orphans, I mean those children who have lost both parents ; and it must be remembered that these, while unable to work, have no legal claim for their maintenance upon any relatives but their grandfathers or grandmothers who may be alive and able to maintain them. In cases of illegitimacy, the law has made no provision for the maintenance of orphans by relatives.
All orphan children in the receipt of poor law relief are admitted to be, as far as the guardians are concerned, without friends or relatives able wholly to provide for them. A considerable number of these destitute children find their home in the workhouse, and many guardians
* From statistical accounts which have been obtained from sixteen out of the eighteen Poor Law Unions in Wiltshire, it appears that there are altogether 196 orphan pauper girls under the age of sixteen at present in those unions; 83 of the children are in the workhouses, and 113 receive outdoor relief.
would tell us that there they are well cared for. But we must not be led away by this assurance. It is not that the little girls in the workhouses are not fed and clothed properly, or that they have not a proper amount of schoolteaching, about which I am not now raising a question ; but I would wish it to be understood that under the workhouse system of bringing them up their minds are contracted and their affections stifled to such a degree that they are unfitted for being placed out in those situations of life where they would be likely to make a favourable impression, and gain the good will. of respectable employers.
To remedy this evil, I would propose that we should use our influence with guardians, and make every possible effort to get all such children placed with trustworthy cottagers, under whose care they may have the same advantages as other children, and the opportunity of gaining a proper knowledge of life before being thrown on their own resources.
Many of the orphans, it must be remembered, have seldom a single holiday out of the workhouse. Theirs is a dull life from year to year, without a ray of hope to brighten up their prospects. They have nothing in the world to cling to. The workhouse schoolmistress cannot do a mother's part to the many little girls of all ages, from three to fourteen, placed under her charge. The thing is impossible. She can teach them all to read and work; she can keep them clean and make them orderly in their conduct ; but to sympathize with them, to respond to the wistful look of those who feel their desolation, to soothe them in their sorrow-holding out a hope of happier days in store—this she cannot do. She can be