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I also heard from Miss B-m, in Lincolnshire, who visited in the Lincoln Workhouse, and every account of success was an encouragement when at first I had seemed alone in my work.
I forgot to mention that one of my first encouragements was finding from Mrs. Plumptre that Mrs. Hare had attempted the plan of ladies' visiting in Sussex, and that the behaviour of the inmates was found to be greatly improved by their influence. It was this that first emboldened me to apply to the guardians for leave to introduce lady visitors.
1857.—The subject made great strides during this year, and our efforts were evidently blessed. In January I saw a letter in the Guardian, on the subject of “ Homes for the Disabled Poor.” I felt a strong desire to answer this with a few words about workhouses, which it seemed to me ought to and might be what we wanted for our poor. I wrote it without much expectation of seeing it in print, but it was inserted, and I felt very thankful that the matter was at last brought before the public. At the end of last year, Mrs. T— had asked me to write something for their Ladies' Committee at St. Pancras, which she thought would encourage them ; I did not know exactly what I had to say, but I began it, and found I had material enough for a long paper. After they had read it, it was proposed to publish it, and one or two newspapers were suggested. I took it with me when I went to Brighton, and finding that I had been successful with my first attempt in the Guardian, I determined to try for this also, and wrote it out directly, and sent it up on Monday evening. I was agreeably surprised to find it inserted as a leading article in the Wednesday's number, and a note from the editor explained that he thought it important enough to place it thus, which he did without waiting to ask permission.
In the course of February I saw a notice in the Times that a motion was to be brought forward in Parliament, for an inquiry into the management of metropolitan workhouses, by Lord Raynham. I had never heard of him, and was anxious to know his motives in taking up the subject. I ventured to write to him, and had a polite answer, saying he should be glad of any further communication. Just then the ministers went out, and the whole subject was postponed.
At this time I had a letter from a Mrs. Sheppard, sent through Longmans, in answer to my pamphlet, speaking of her interest in the work at Frome, and telling me of what she had done. This grew into a correspondence, which continued at intervals with much interest for some years. Mrs. S. shortly after published a pamphlet called “ Experiences of a Workhouse Visitor,” and she sent me several extracts of answers she had received, all showing an awakening interest in the subject.
In March I went to Paris for a month, and during that time I visited several charitable institutions, with a view to comparing them with our workhouses. The result of these visits I published in a letter to the Guardian on my return. I had one answer, sent through the editor, from Dr. Chambers, wishing to see a Maison de Santé " for men here, and saying that my account quite agreed with his own experiences when a medical student in Paris.*
* These suggestions are now being carried out by the Home Hospitals Association, etc., twenty-two years after.
In the course of the spring Mrs. S. suggested that I should publish together the several letters I had sent to the Guardian, which was the first idea I had of doing so. I began to arrange another pamphlet, therefore, and wrote a preface. Finding that Lord Raynham was again proposing to bring forward the subject, I wrote to beg an interview. One morning he called, and we had some conversation upon it; but it was difficult to understand his views or plan, for he talked in a very confused manner, and had evidently no personal knowledge of what he spoke about. I feared his youth and inexperience would not favour his cause, but he was willing to receive any suggestions.
Before this I had written to Mr. Bouverie (President of the Poor Law Board), on the subject of ladies' visiting, etc. I received from him a very official answer, not at all to the point, but renewing the old objections of “interference," a “ divided management,” etc.
Routine and order (so called) evidently haunted the minds of these good people, who have never had anything to do with the poor personally. One day Lord Raynham called to say he thought it would assist him if he could have a petition signed by several persons, which he might present in the House. He asked me to get it done. I said I would willingly get signatures, but how to set about a petition I had no idea. He said it was very easy, and left me to manage it. I felt utterly perplexed, but got a written-out form, which I copied, and expressed it as I thought suitably.
June 17th.--I set out with the petition first to Dr. Bence Jones, who, having had the inspection of the St. Pancras Workhouse, was, I knew, interested in the subject. . I had an encouraging interview with him, and found him very kind and cordial ; we had much conversation about workhouses. He was most desirous that a better system of nursing should be carried out, and wished Miss Nightingale had turned her attention to this point. He very readily signed it, and said he should always be glad to see me.
I then proceeded to Dr. Routh, in Montague Square, whom I had heard speak of the evils of workhouses at a meeting for the Cripples' Home, some weeks before. I found him also very friendly and interested in the cause, but he spoke hopelessly of the impracticability of the guardians. He advised me to go to Dr. Stewart, in Grosvenor Street ; but as I was near St. Mary's, I thought I would try to find Mr. Hampden Gurney there. I waited in the vestry for him, and did not get much encouragement when he came, though he signed his name. Then to Dr. Stewart, who read the petition, and to my dismay told me that it would not do, being incorrect in one or two points! He wrote out a form, and told me I must copy it, and he would gladly sign it again. So my morning's work on a hot day seemed wasted, and I returned home. The next day I sent round a new copy to the three doctors, who all kindly signed it again. There was scarcely a week in which to get it all done. Every day I got some fresh signatures, and wrote to ask some to call here to sign it. Mr. Pownall, magistrate, called for that purpose, and I was encouraged by a long conversation with him, his experience being very valuable ; he quite agreed with all I said as to the influence of women. It was singular at the time how well everything fitted in. Captain Trotter called here ; his chief idea seemed to be to get “converted characters ” to manage workhouses, and did not think women could take any part in the management.
June 19th.—I took the petition to Miss Neave, at Westminster, by appointment. Mrs. Sheppard sent me up several names who would sign it, and a list to add to what I had already.
June 22nd.—I went to Mrs. Shaw, in Cambridge Square, a lady much interested in the work; and then I went to Mrs. Sidney Herbert, whom I had the good fortune to find at home, and who was very kind about it, and spoke about what she had done in Wiltshire. Besides these, I sent to many ; Mrs. Tait, etc. I found the latter had much interest in the cause, from having personally visited the workhouse at Carlisle, which was all hopeful and encouraging.
June 23rd.—I sent the petition to Lord Raynham, thinking the subject was to come forward this evening, but it was returned to me, as it was postponed till Friday, and I might be able to get more names. I was sorry to see it again, for it had been no little trouble and anxiety to me, and a great fatigue. All this, after all, was useless, which may make the trouble seem the more vexatious ; but I do not regret it, for I believe it spread an interest in the cause in many quarters, and was the means of my personally reaching many.
June 24th.- I took the petition to the closing meeting at Queen's College, and got more signatures, Dr. Trench's among the number.
June 25th.—I went after breakfast to Kensington Workhouse, as being admirably managed, and they seemed to have no experience of bad ones. I made a