Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

tion of the inmates. Yet this prejudice is wearing away year by year, and every established precedent makes it easier for others to

follow.

Even at the present time, after the years of discussion both in the public papers and in many books and periodicals, there exists still what I venture to call a profound ignorance of the subject. But few persons amongst our "benevolent and philanthropic public” know even of the arrangements which have been made during the last ten years for the disposal of the thousands of sick and helpless persons who are provided for by our Poor Law. I would almost venture to say that no one beyond the limits of the managers, and those immediately concerned in them, could tell how many new or separate infirmaries there are now in the metropolitan district ? Few are even aware that the sick have been thus entirely separated from the “workhouse," properly (or improperly) so called. Yet some of these new buildings surpass in size and importance many of our oldestablished hospitals, and are superior in all their modern and sanitary arrangements. There would hardly be a new hospital built or opened in London without the fact being widely known and a considerable interest excited.

How can

this contrast be accounted for?

At nearly the first meeting, held twenty-one

years ago, at the rooms of the National Associa

tion for Promoting Social Science, one of the first inquiries proposed was as to the number of workhouses in the metropolitan district? I had not at that tiine ascertained the exact number, but I believed it to be nearly fifty ; on which statement an exclamation was made by one who was present (a member of Parliament), “He should have said there were twelve !" (I believe the real number at that time was forty.) This shows that a profound ignorance was then prevalent, even amongst those who

were our public men, and this is probably in great measure the same now.

After the important discussions in which the revelations of many years culminated ten years ago, and the plans for the separation of the different classes of inmates had been made, the public interest that had been awakened seemed to die away, and but little inquiry was made as to the manner in which all these changes had been carried out. For the last few years “the public" have been satisfied that the subject was ended, and much disappointment has been felt by many at the still imperfect results, notwithstanding many improvements. So strongly did I feel the need of reviving the subject, that a year ago I was considering how and where an article could appear in one of our leading Reviews. The subject was evidently not an attractive one, and the public in general had heard enough of it; but this only showed more strongly the necessity of dispersing this indifference by means of further facts and enlightenment. The recent article was the result of this conviction, and during the last year many circumstances have combined to show that,

after an apparent lapse of interest during some years, there is now a revival in many quarters which is hopeful and encouraging. During the past summer, a correspondence was carried on in the Times on the subject of workhouse children and schools, and the clergyman who began it referred to the former Workhouse Visiting Society, of which he had a remembrance, asking if an association, for the purpose of befriending workhouse children, could not be formed or revived ? * Thus two

of the chief objects of the original Workhouse Visiting Society, the care of the sick and the

* It is satisfactory to find that a special branch of the Girls' Friendly Society has been devoted to the visitation of workhouse girls in the schools, and after they leave them, as long as they retain a good character ; but will not this rule require to be supplemented by another agency?

children, have been again brought prominently forward as needing the help which volunteers alone can give. Both these renewed suggestions were made by independent persons, who were quite unaware of what was passing in other minds with regard to a fresh revival of the subject.

With regard to the sick, the revived interest which was felt in them by some ladies who visit in London workhouses, and knew the need of further improvements in this depart. ment, has led to an effort, which it is hoped may succeed, in effecting what is still required for the care of the sick and incurable in our new and enlarged infirmaries, viz. by providing them with efficient superintendents and nurses.*

Surely this last proposal may be considered to be a direct outcome of the interest in workhouse ininates which was first created by the Workhouse Visiting Society, and which has been growing and spreading ever since.

* See Appendix IX.

« НазадПродовжити »