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The Communion of Labour

June 28, 1856 — a lecture “delivered orally to a circle of friends,” England


The Influence of Legislation on the Morals and Happiness of Men and Women.

It is now nearly a year and half since my friends gathered round me and listened very kindly and patiently to certain suggestions relative to the social employments of women, more especially as “SISTERS OF CHARITY, at home and abroad.” The views I then advocated had been long in’ my mind: but great events, at that time recent, and coming home to all hearts, had rendered the exposition of those views more seasonable, more interesting, perhaps also: more intelligible, than they would otherwise have been.

The publication of that Lecture having attracted more attention than I had reason to expect, and having given rise to some discussion, public and private, I have been advised, and have taken courage, once more, and probably for the last time, to recur to the same subject. It is a subject which, if it be worth any attention whatever, is worth the most serious and solemn consideration ; for it concerns no transient, no partial interest, lying on the surface of life, but rather the very stuff of which life is made. Some new observations, some additional facts, I have to communicate, which, while they illustrate the principles laid down in my former Lecture, will, I hope, add force to my arguments. These observations, these facts, will not at once overcome all objections, will not in the first instance meet with any thing like general acceptance ; but they will perhaps open I up new sources of thought ; and if thought lead to inquiry, and inquiry lead to conviction — for or against — I should be content to abide that issue.

The questions as yet unsettled seem to be these: —

Whether a more enlarged sphere of social work may not be allowed to woman in perfect accordance with the truest feminine instincts? Whether there be not a possibility of her sharing practically in the responsibilities of social as well as domestic life! Whether she might not be better pre pared to meet and exercise such higher responsibilities? Whether such a communion of labour might not lead to the more humane ordering of many of our public institutions; to a purer standard of morals; and to a better mutual com prehension and a finer harmony between men and women, when thus called upon to work together, and (in combining what is best in the two natures) becoming what God intended them to be, the supplement to each other?

Let it not be supposed that I am about to enter an arena of public strife. For any truth in which I believe, I could suffer — no matter what — or die if need were, yet feel that I could scarcely strike a blow, far less inflict a wound. Conflict, which rouses up the best and highest powers in some characters, in others not only jars the whole being, “but paralyses the faculties. This, of course, is a mere matter of individual temperament; yet, on the whole, in looking back to the history of human progress, I doubt whether any great truth was ever much advanced by conflict, still less by compromise. The hardest battle ever fought for truth left some doubt as to which side had the advantage; and those who have conceded or sacrificed some portion of the truth by way of securing some other portion (a favourite expedient with politicians “who call themselves practical), have not, I think, been successful in their piecemeal morality, or their piecemeal legislation. Let us accept gratefully some portion of what we believe to be just, if we cannot yet obtain the whole; but that is quite different from conceding any portion of a principle. We shall meantime do well to take our stand on the highest point we can attain to, beyond the reach of the tempest and the conflict which agitate the waves of fashion and opinion. At last, the rising flood will bring to our side those who have been swimming with the current, or struggling in the turmoil ; catching at every stray fragment of popular doctrine which floated past them at the level of their eye, and holding it up as if they had rescued from the deep some priceless truth.

These deceptions they have dropped one by one, and now we have them beside us : they have planted their foot where we have planted ours. We are no longer lonely, and we have been ever at peace with ourselves and others; seemingly passive to falsehood, but in reality steadfast in faith; — and this is better than strife.

But ere I proceed farther, there is one point on which I am anxious not to be misunderstood, one consideration which I am desirous to place on its true grounds in reference to my present subject — the social position and occupations of women.

“Gagnez les femmes,” said one of the acutest of modern politicians when giving his last instructions to an ambassador. “We write in vain if we have not the women on our side,” said one of the poets of our own time; and we women know full well that we must think, and write, and speak in vain without the sanction of the manly intellect, — without the sympathy of the manly heart. At this moment I feel assured of both as I have never felt before.

It ought to give us courage and comfort to know that the laws relating to property and marriage which have hitherto pressed so heavily on the well-being and happiness of one-half of the community are under the consideration of wise and able men, and may be safely left in their hands. We may have to wait long for those practical measures of justice which are contemplated, but we can afford to wait, now that the injustice has been openly acknowledged by philosophical statesmen and experienced lawyers. There still exist, however, some singular misconceptions, both as to the existing evil and the remedy required ; and the expression of opinion and feeling in public and’ in private, which has arisen out of the late discussion of these laws in both Houses of Parliament, has been very curious and conflicting.

We must acknowledge, that a law which should forbid a woman to give all she has to give to the man she loves and trusts, though to her own perdition, would be certainly a very foolish and a very useless law. Whether the con cession be from impulse, or devotedness, or pity, or ignorance, she must abide by her own act, it must rest on her own conscience. But the law which punishes, with extreme severity, the man who takes from her by force what she desires to withhold, is a just and righteous law. So, in regard to property, a law which should interdict the woman from giving all her possessions and earnings, if she chooses, to her husband, would be a foolish and a useless law: in this case, as in the other, she must abide by her own act, and its consequences. But the law which empowers her husband to take away all she may possess, or may have earned by her labour, against her will and to her destruction, is surely cruel. Again, a law which should give to the wife the independent administration of her property, and at the same time leave her husband responsible for her debts, would be equally foolish and cruel. These seem to be clear and simple principles of justice which will be carried out sooner or later, though the legal details at this present time may be complicated by difficulties arising out of existing laws.

But I must here distinctly explain that, when asked to place my name to a petition against the present marital laws of property, I did so, with no especial reference to their practical effect in particular instances, but merely as I would protest against any other manifest injustice either in regard to men, or women, or both. The truth is, that far beyond the palpable, visible working of these laws, cruel as they are in individual cases, lies an infinitely more fatal mis chief in their injurious effect on the masses of the people. What matter how such laws act here or there, — how far they are to be excused as expedient, or to be sustained by custom, — how easily they may be evaded by one class though they fall heavily on another? — what signifies all this if they permeate, and in some sort vitiate, the relations of the two sexes throughout the whole community ? The direct action of such laws may be confined to the conjugal relation; but the indirect action, as reflected in feeling and opinion, operates on all, married and unmarried. These observations refer merely to their practical effects; but not even those who plead for their expediency in a . complex commercial community, where the question of property enters into all relations and contracts, and can hardly be touched without danger or at least disturbance, deny the abstract injustice of such laws. Now every injustice is a form of falsehood; every falsehood accepted and legalised, works in the social system like poison in the physical frame, and may taint the whole body politic through and through, ere we have learned in what quivering nerve or delicate tissue to trace and detect its fatal presence. Human laws which contravene the laws of God arc not laws but lies ; and like all lies, must perish in the long run. But there was a saying of a clever politician, that a lie believed in but for half an hour might cause a century of mischief. What then, I would ask, is likely to be the effect of these laws which have existed as part of our common law for centuries past, — laws which may well be called lies, inasmuch as they suppose a state of things which has no real existence in the divine regulation of the world? — laws which, during all that period, have tended to degrade the woman in the eyes of the man, interfered with the sacredness of the domestic relations, and infected the whole social system?

I regard the existence of these laws as the source of especial and fatal mischief. I look upon them as one cause why it is difficult for men and women to work together harmoniously; — how can it be otherwise where the -conditions under which they must be associated are, in the first instance, so unequal as to be almost antagonistic? I look upon these laws as one cause of prostitution, because, in so far as they have lowered the social position of the woman, they have lowered the value of her labour, and have thus exposed her to want and temptation, which would not otherwise have existed.

Farther, I consider these laws, in so far as they have influenced the mutual relations of the two sexes, as one cause of those outrages on women which are every day brought before the magistrates, to the disgrace of our civilised England.

And is it not rather absurd at this time of day to devise, as an antidote of the working of these laws, another law, really as unjust in its. way, which punishes a man for ill treating the creature he has been authorised to regard as his inferior? Every act of our legislature which takes for granted a state of antagonism, not harmony, between the masculine and the feminine nature, has tended to create that antagonism. Every act of our legislature, which, on the one hand, first legalises wrong, and then, on the other hand, interposes with legal protection against that wrong, must appear to simple, honest minds a very cruel and clumsy, anomaly. By this perpetual, absurd alternation of legalised wrong and legalised vengeance for the wrong, you demoralise relatively both men and women; — the woman is degraded in the sight of the man as the licensed victim, the man in the sight of the woman as the chastised tyrant.

I cannot but think that those good men — prelates, fathers, and lawyers — who watch over and guard the public morality, and are so fearful lest the harmony and purity of domestic life should suffer by any change in those laws, — I cannot but think them, with submission, mistaken, and that they take but a one-sided and short sighted view of a most awful subject. I cannot but think that by the abrogation of those laws which have disturbed the divine equilibrium in the relation between the sexes, they would do more for the morality of men and the protection of women, than by punishing hundreds of brutal husbands.

Wise men have doubted whether there ought to be separate laws concerning women as such; and scout with reason such phrases as the rights of women and the wrongs of women. I have always had such an intimate conviction of the absurdity of such phrases, that I believe I never used them seriously in my life. In a free country, and a Christian community, a woman has the rights which belong to her as a human being and as a member of the com munity, and she has no others. I think it a dangerous and , a fatal mistake to legislate on the assumption that there are feminine and masculine rights and wrongs, just as I deem it a fatal error in morals to assume that there are masculine and feminine virtues and vices: there are masculine and feminine qualities, wisely and beautifully discriminated, but there are not masculine and feminine virtues and vices. Let us not cheat ourselves by what Mrs. Malaprop would call ” a nice derangement of epithets,” lest “a nice derangement” of morals ensue thereupon ; lest our ideas get hopelessly entangled in words, and our principles of right and wrong become mystified by sentimental phrases.

Nothing in all my experience of life has so shocked me, as the low moral standard of one sex for the other, arising, as I believe, out of this irreligious mistake. I see, among the women of our higher classes, those who have lived much in “the world” as it is called, a sort of mysterious horror of the immorality of men, not as a thing to be resisted or resented or remedied, but to be submitted to as a sort of fatality and necessity (for so it has been instilled into them) or guarded against by a mere inefficient barricade of conventional proprieties; while I see in men of the world a contemptuous mistrust of women, an impression of their faithlessness, heartlessness, feebleness, equally fatal and mistaken. Men are not all sensual and selfish; women are not all false and feeble. Women, I am sorry to say it, can be sensual and selfish; men can be false and weak ; but then I have known men, manly men, with all the tenderness and refinement We attribute to women, and I have known women who have united with all their own soft sympathies and acute perceptions, quite a manly strength and sincerity. The union is rare; it brings the individual so endowed near to our ideal of human perfection; it is what we ought to aim at in all our schemes of education. Meantime, let us have what is the next best thing, the combination of the two natures, the two influences in all that we are trying to effect for the good of the “human family.”

I return to the so-called “rights and wrongs of women ” only to dismiss them at once from our thoughts and our subject. Morally a woman has a right to the free and entire development of every faculty which God has given her to be improved and used to His honour. Socially she has a right to the protection of equal laws ; the right to labour with her hands the thing that is good; to select the kind of labour which is in harmony with her condition and her powers; to exist, if need be, by her labour, or to profit others by it if she choose. These are her rights, not more nor less than the rights of the man. Let us therefore put aside all futile and unreal distinctions. I go back to the principle laid down in my former Lecture, and I appeal against human laws and customs to the eternal and immutable law of God. When He created all living creatures male and female, was it not His will that out of this very disparity in unity, this likeness in unlikeness, there should spring an indissoluble bond of mutual attraction and mutual dependence, increasing in degree and durability with every advance of sentient life? And when He raised us, His human creatures, above mere animal existence, did He not make the union, by choice and will, of the man and the woman the basis of all domestic life? all domestic life the basis of all social life? all social life the basis of all national life ? How, then, shall our social and national life be pure and holy, and well ordered before God and man, if the domestic affections and duties be not carried out, and expanded, and perfected in the larger social sphere, and in the same spirit of mutual reverence, trust, and kindness which we demand in the primitive relation? It appears to me that when the Creator endowed the two halves of the human race with ever-aspiring hopes, with ever-widening sympathies, with ever- progressive capacities, — when He made them equal in the responsibilities which bind the conscience and in the temptations which mislead the will, — He linked them inseparably in an ever-extending sphere of duties, and an ever-expanding communion of affections; thus, in one simple, holy, and beautiful ordinance, binding up at once the continuation of the species and its moral, social, and physical progress, through all time.

Let these premises be granted, and hence it follows as a first natural and necessary result, and one which the wisest philosophers have admitted, that the relative position of the man and the woman in any community is invariably to be taken as a test of the degree of civilisation and well- being in that community. Hence, as a second result, equally natural and necessary, we find that all that extends | and multiplies the innocent relations, the kindly sympathies, the mutual services of men and women, must lead to the happiness and improvement of both. Hence, thirdly, if either men or women arrogate to . themselves exclusively . Is any of the social work or social privileges which can be performed or exercised perfectly only in communion, they will inevitably fail in their objects, and end probably in corrupting each other. Hence, in conclusion, this last inevitable result; that wherever the nature of either man or woman is considered as self-dependent or self-sufficing, their rights and wrongs as distinct, their interests as opposed or even capable of separation, there we find cruel and unjust laws, discord and confusion entering into all the forms of domestic and social life, and the element of decay in all our institutions. In the midst of our apparent material prosperity, let some curious or courageous hand lift up but a corner of that embroidered pall which the superficial refinement of our privileged and prosperous classes has thrown over society, and how we recoil from the revelation of what lies seething and festering beneath! How we are startled by glimpses of hidden pain, and covert vice, and horrible wrongs done and suffered! Then come strange trials before our tribunals, polluting the public mind. Then are great blue books piled up before Parliament, filled with reports of inspectors and committees. Then eloquent newspaper articles are let off” like rockets into an abyss, just to show the darkness — and expire. Then have we fitful, clamorous bursts of popular indignation and remorse; hasty partial remedies for antiquated mischiefs; clumsy tinkering of barbarous and inadequate laws; — then the vain attempt to solder together un deniable truths and admitted falsehoods into some brittle, plausible compromise; — then at last the slowly awakening sense of a great want aching deep down at the heart of society, throbbing upwards and outwards with a quicker and a quicker pulse; and then — what then ? What if this great want, this something which we crave and seek, be in a manner a part of ourselves ? — lying so near to us, so close at our feet, that we have overlooked and lost it in reaching after the distant, the difficult, the impracticable?

The Communion of Labour in Sanitary, Educational, Reformatory, and Penal Institutions.

Work in some form or other is the appointed lot of all — divinely appointed; and, given as equal the religious responsibilities of the two sexes, might we not, in distributing the work to be done in this world, combine and use in more equal proportion the working faculties of men and women, and so find a remedy for many of those mistakes which have vitiated some of our noblest educational and charitable institutions? Is it not possible that in the apportioning of the work we may have too far sundered what in God’s creation never can be sundered without pain and mischief, the masculine and the feminine in fluences? — lost the true balance between the clement of  power and the element of love? and trusted too much to mere mechanical means for carrying out high religious and moral purposes?

It seems indisputable that the mutual influence of the two sexes — brain upon brain — life upon life — becomes more subtle, and spiritual, and complex, more active and more intense, in proportion as the whole human race is improved and developed. The physiologist knows this well: let the moralist give heed to it, lest in becoming more intense, and active, and extended, such influences become at the same time less beneficent, less healthful, and less manageable.

It appears to me that we do wrong to legislate, and educate, and build up institutions without taking cognisance of this law of our being. It appears to me that the domestic affections and the domestic duties — what I have called the “communion of love and the communion of labour” — must be taken as the basis of all the more com plicate social relations, and that the family sympathies must be carried out and developed in all the forms and duties of social existence, before we can have a prosperous, healthy, happy, and truly Christian community. Yes! I have the deepest conviction, founded not merely on my own experience and observation, but on the testimony of some of the wisest and best men among us, that to enlarge the working sphere of woman to the measure of her faculties, to give her a more practical and authorised share in all social arrangements which have for their object the amelioration of evil and suffering, is to elevate her in the social scale; and that whatever renders womanhood respected and respectable in the estimation of the people tends to humanise and refine the people.

It is surely an anomaly that, while women are divided from men in learning and working by certain superstitions of a conventional morality, and in social position by the whole spirit and tendency of our past legislation, their material existence and interests are regarded as identical; — identical however only in this sense — that the material and social interests of the woman are always supposed to be merged in those of the man; while it is never taken for granted that the true interests of the man are inseparable from those of the woman : so at the outset we are met by inconsistency and confusion, such as must inevitably disturb the security and integrity of all the mutual relations.

Here then I take my stand, not on any hypothesis of expediency, but on what I conceive to be an essential law of life; and I conclude that all our endowments for social good, whatever their especial purpose or denomination — educational, sanitary, charitable, penal — will prosper and fulfil their objects in so far as we carry out this principle of combining in due proportion the masculine and the feminine element, and will fail or become perverted into some form of evil in so far as we neglect or ignore it.


I will now proceed to illustrate my position by certain facts connected with the administration of various public institutions at home and abroad.

And, first, with regard to hospitals.

What is the purpose of a great hospital? Ask a physician or a surgeon, zealous in his profession: he will probably answer that a great hospital is a great medical school in which the art of healing is scientifically and experimentally taught; where the human sufferers who crowd those long vistas of beds are not men and women, but “cases” to be studied: and so under one aspect it ought to be, and must be. A great, well-ordered medical school is absolutely necessary ; and to be able to regard the various aspects of disease with calm discrimination, the too sensitive human sympathies must be set aside. Therefore much need is there here of all the masculine firmness of nerve and strength of understanding. But surely a great hospital has another purpose, that for which it was originally founded and endowed, namely, as a refuge and solace for disease and suffering. Here are congregated in terrible reality all the ills enumerated in Milton’s visionary lazar-house, —

“All maladies
Of ghastly spasm or racking torture, qualms
Of heart-sick agony, wide-wasting pestilence” —


I spare you the rest of the horrible catalogue. He goes on —

“Dire was the tossing, deep the groans; despair
Tended the sick, busiest from couch to couch.”

But why must despair tend the sick? We can imagine a far different influence “busiest from couch to couch!

There is a passage in Tennyson’s poems, written long before the days of Florence Nightingale, which proves that poets have been rightly called prophets, and see “the thing that shall be as the thing that is.” I will repeat the passage. He is describing the wounded warriors nursed and tended by the learned ladies.

“A kindlier influence reigned, and everywhere
Low voices with the ministering hand Hung round the sick.
The maidens came, they talked,
They sung, they read, till she, not fair, began
To gather light, and she that was, became
Her former beauty treble; to and fro.
Like creatures native unto gracious act.
And in their own clear element they moved.”

This you will say is the poetical aspect of the scene: was it not poetical too when the poor soldier said that the very shadow of Florence Nightingale passing over his bed seemed to do him good?

But to proceed. The practical advantages, the absolute necessity of a better order of nurses to take the charge and supervision of the sick in our hospitals, is now so far ad mitted that it is superfluous to add anything to what I said in my former Lecture. It is not now maintained that a class of women, whom I have heard designated by those who employ them as drunken, vulgar, unfeeling, and in efficient, without any religious sense of responsibility, and hardened by the perpetual sight of suffering, are alone eligible to purse and comfort the sick poor. One great cause of the cruelty and neglect charged against hospital nurses is, that they become insensibly and gradually hardened by perpetual sights and sounds of suffering. ” A good nurse ought to receive every new case of affliction as if it were the first ; ” so it has been said : but if we look for this ever fresh fount of sympathy and conscientiousness either from natural kindness of heart, sense of duty, or love of gain, we shall be disappointed. In a small hospital for wretched, helpless, bedridden paupers, one of the religious women acknowledged to me that their duties were of a nature so painful and revolting, and in their issue, which could end only in death, so depressing, that still, after being for years accustomed to the work, they were obliged every morning to dedicate themselves anew to their duty, “for the love of God.” It is because they were accustomed to the work, that such a renewed and especial consecration to it in heart and soul was daily necessary : nothing hardens like custom.

“You ought to understand,” said Mr. Maurice, “that the study of disease for the purpose of science has no tendency to harden the heart.” True; but to minister to’ disease with no ulterior purpose but self-interest, though it be of an elevated and enlightened kind, does and must harden the heart in the long run.

It is one cause of that languor, and despondency, and impatience, which sometimes comes over zealous and kind- hearted women’ who devote themselves to the sick, and miserable, and perverted, and ignorant poor, that they begin with a conviction that they shall find their reward in a certain palpable result of their labour; that after a time they shall be able to count their successes on their fingers. Those who set about fulfilling the teaching of Christ on such terms are only a degree better than those who work for hire of another kind. In what is heart-warm charity better than ambition or love of glory if it be not in this— that those who do God’s work must devote themselves to it daily in a stronger faith and in a loftier hope, in the faith that no atom of such work shall be lost or pass away?

One purpose of an hospital supposes the presence of the feminine nature to minister through love as well as the masculine intellect to rule through power, — the presence of those who can soothe and comfort as well as those who can heal. Now I will speak of what I Lave seen where this combined régime prevails.

The Paris hospitals are so admirably organised by the religious women, who in almost every instance share in the  administration. so far as regards the care of the sick, that I have often been surprised that hitherto the numbers of our medical men who have studied at Paris have not made any attempts to introduce a better system of female nursing into the hospitals at home. But they appear to have regarded everything of the kind with despair or indifference.

In my former Lecture I mentioned several of the most famous of these hospitals : during my last visit to Paris I visited an hospital which I had not before seen — the hospital Lariboissière, which appeared to me a model of all that a civil hospital ought to be, clean, airy, light, and lofty, above all, cheerful. I should observe that generally in the hospitals served by Sisters of Charity, there is ever an air of cheerfulness caused by their own sweetness of temper and voluntary devotion to their work. At the time that I visited this hospital it contained 612 patients, 300 men and | , 312 women, in two ranges of building divided by a very pretty garden. The whole interior management is entrusted to twenty-five trained Sisters of the same Order as those who serve the Hôtel-Dieu. There are besides about forty servants, men and women, — men to do the rough work, and male nurses to assist in the men’s wards under the superintendence of the Sisters. There are three physicians and two surgeons in constant attendance, a steward or comptroller of accounts, and other officers. To complete this picture, I must add that the hospital Lariboissière was founded by a lady, a rich heiress, a married woman too, whose husband, after her death, carried out her intentions to the utmost with zeal and fidelity. She had the assistance of the best architects in France to plan her building  medical and scientific men had aided her with .their counsels. What the feminine instinct of compassion had conceived was by the manly intellect planned and ordered, and again by female aid administered. In all its arrangements this ,’ | hospital appeared to me a perfect example of the combined working of men and women.

In contrast with this splendid foundation, I will mention another not less admirable in its way.

When I was at Vienna, I saw a small hospital belonging to the Sisters of Charity there. The beginning had been very modest, two of the Sisters having settled in a small old house. Several of the adjoining buildings were added one after the other, connected by wooden corridors: the only new part which had any appearance of being adapted to its purpose was the infirmary, in which were fifty-two patients, twenty-six men and twenty-six women, besides nine beds for cholera. There were fifty Sisters, of whom one-half were employed in the house, and the other half were going their rounds amongst the poor, or nursing the sick in private houses. There was a nursery for infants, whose mothers were at work ; a day-school for one hundred and fifty girls, in which only knitting and sewing were taught; all clean, orderly, and, above all, cheerful. There was a dispensary, where two of the Sisters were employed in making up prescriptions, homoeopathic and allopathic. There was a large airy kitchen where three of the Sisters with two assistants were cooking. There were two priests and two physicians. So that, in fact, under this roof we had the elements on a small scale of an English work house; but very different was the spirit which animated it.

I saw at Vienna another excellent hospital for women alone, of which the whole administration and support rested with the ladies of the Order of St. Elizabeth. These are cloistered, that is, not allowed to go out of their home to nurse the sick and poor; nor have they any schools; but all sick women who apply for admission are taken in without any questions asked, so long as there is room for them — cases of child-birth excepted. At the time I visited this hospital it contained ninety-two patients: about twenty were cases of cholera. There were sixteen beds in each ward, over which two Sisters presided. The dispensary, which was excellently arranged, was entirely managed by two of the ladies. The Superior told me that they have always three or more Sisters preparing for their profession under the best apothecaries ; and there was a large garden principally of medicinal and kitchen herbs. Nothing could exceed the purity of the air, and the cleanliness, order, and quiet everywhere apparent.

In the great civil hospital at Vienna, one of the largest I have ever seen, larger even than the Hôtel Dieu at Paris, I found that the Sisters of Charity were about to be introduced. One of my friends there, a distinguished naturalist and philosopher, as well as physician, told me that the disorderly habits and the want of intelligence in the paid female nurses, had induced him to join with his col leagues in inviting the cooperation of the religious Sisters, though it was at first rather against their will. In the hospital of St. John at Salzburgh the same change had been found necessary.

I suppose that every traveller who has visited Milan re members at least the outside of that most venerable and beautiful building, the ‘Spedale Maggiore (the Great Hospital). The exquisite and florid grace of the facade, with its terra-cotta mouldings, suggests the idea of some fairy structure, some palace of pleasure, rather than an asylum for the sick and poor. Although I could not help feeling this want of fitness — for fitness is the first principle of taste — yet as an artist I was struck with admiration of the architectural elegance, and used to stand before it, entranced as by music to the eye. But it is not of the exterior, but of the interior I have now to speak. It is the largest hospital I have ever visited, larger than the Hôtel-Dieu at Paris, larger even than the great hospital at Vienna; and contained, on the day I visited it, more than 2500 patients, without reckoning those in the lying-in hospital and the hospital for foundlings and sick children, in connection with it. This large number I was told arose from a very sick season, and the prevalence of cholera : in general the number of patients does not exceed 1500. It belongs to the municipality, and is managed by six governors, each of whom is supreme acting governor for two months in the year, Forty Sisters of Charity and their Superior, with a large staff of female assistants, managed the nursing.

Had I been content, like other travellers, with admiring and studying the beautiful architecture, I should have brought away a pleasanter impression of this great hospital; but the interior disappointed me. It seemed to me too large, too crowded, and the management not quite satisfactory. It is the most richly endowed hospital in all Europe, and yet they say that it is deeply in debt. The change of government every two months must be injurious. I had not time to go into details, but would recommend those who are interested in such matters to study the administrative arrangements of this great hospital, and see where the good and the evil may lie. It is a great medical school.

I had, when in Piedmont, particular opportunities for learning the state of feeling in regard to the service of the hospitals, and it deserves some consideration.

A great number of the medical students were in open opposition to the Sisters employed in the hospitals, and on inquiring I found that this opposition arose from various causes. In the first place, it was generally allowed that there is a great laxity of morals — I might give it a harder name — prevalent among the medical students in Turin as elsewhere, and that the influence of these religious women, the strict order and surveillance exercised and enforced by them wherever they ruled, is in the highest degree distasteful to those young men : more especially the protection afforded by the Sisters to the poor young female patients, when convalescent, or after leaving the hospitals, had actually excited a feeling against them ; though as women, and as religious women, one might think that this was a duty, and not the least sacred of their duties.

This adverse feeling took the colour of liberalism.

Now I had, and have, an intense sympathy with the Piedmontese, in their brave struggle for political and religious independence ; but I cannot help wishing and hoping that the reform, in both cases, may be carried out in the progressive, not in the destructive spirit ; and, thanks to those enlightened men who guide the councils of Piedmont, and who do not  mistake reverse of wrong for right,” it has hitherto been so.

It will be remembered that the Sisters of Charity were excepted when other religious orders were suppressed ; and, in consequence it was a sort of fashion with an ultra party to consider them as part of an ecclesiastical regime, which had been identified with all the evils of tyranny, ignorance, . and priestly domination. This fueling was subsiding when I was there. The heroism of the sixty-two Sisters of Charity, who had accompanied the Piedmontese armies to the East, and of their Superior, Madame de Cordera, had excited in the public mind a degree of enthusiasm which silenced the vulgar and short-sighted opposition of a set of dissipated, thoughtless boys.

One thing more had occurred which struck me. A few months before my arrival, and as a part of this medical agitation, a petition or protest had been drawn up by the medical students and the young men who served in the apothecaries’ shops, against the small dispensaries and infirmaries which the Sisters had of their own for the poor, and for children. The plea was, not that their infirmaries were ill-served or that the medicines were ill-compounded, or that any mistakes had occurred from ignorance or unskilfulness, but that this small medical practice, unpaid and beneficent, ” took the bread out of the men’s mouths.” Before we laugh at this short-sighted folly and cruelty, which supposes that the interests of the two sexes can ‘, possibly be antagonistic instead of being inseparably bound up together, we must recollect that we have had some specimens of the same feeling in our own country ; as for instance, the opposition to the national female school of design, and the steady opposition of the inferior part of the medical profession to all female practitioners. That some departments of medicine are peculiarly suited to women is beginning to strike the public mind. I know that there are enlightened and distinguished physicians both here and in France, who take this view of the subject, though the medical profession as a body entertain a peculiar dread of f all innovation, which they resist with as much passive pertinacity as boards of guardians and London Corporations.

Before I leave Piedmont, I must mention two more hospitals, because of the contrast they afford, which will aptly illustrate the principle I am endeavouring to advocate.

The hospital of St. John at Vercelli, which I had the opportunity of inspecting minutely, left a strong impression on my mind. At the time I visited it, it contained nearly 400 patients. There was besides, in an adjacent building, a school and hospital for poor children. The whole interior economy of these two hospitals was under the management of eighteen women, with a staff of assistants both male and female. The Superior, a very handsome, intelligent woman, had been trained at Paris, and had presided over this provincial hospital for eleven years. There was the same cheerfulness which I have had occasion to remark in all institutions where the religious and feminine elements were allowed to influence the material administration; and every thing was exquisitely clean, airy, and comfortable. In this instance the dispensary (Pharmacie) was managed by apothecaries, and not by the women.

Now, in contrast with this hospital, I will describe a famous hospital at Turin. It is a recent building, with all the latest improvements, and considered, in respect to fitness for its purpose, as a chef-d’oeuvre of architecture. The contrivances and material appliances for the sick and convalescent were exhibited to me as the wonder and boast of the city; certainly they were most ingenious. The management was in the hands of a committee of gentlemen; under them a numerous staff of priests and physicians. Two or three female servants of the lowest class were sweeping and cleaning. In the convalescent wards I saw a great deal of card-playing. All was formal, cold, clean, and silent ; no cheerful, kindly faces, no soft low voices, no light active figures were hovering round. I left the place with a melancholy feeling, shared as I found by those who were with me. One of them, an accomplished physician, felt and candidly acknowledged the want of female influence here.

One of the directors of the great military hospital at Turin told me that he regarded it as one of the best deeds of his life, that he had recommended, and carried through, the employment of the Sisters of Charity in this institution. Before the introduction of these ladies, the sick soldiers had been nursed by orderlies sent from the neighbouring barracks — men chosen because they were unfit for other work. The most rigid discipline was necessary to keep them in order; and the dirt, neglect, and general immorality were frightful. Any change was, however, resisted ‘ by the military and medical authorities, till the invasion of the cholera : then the orderlies became, most of them, useless, distracted, and almost paralysed with terror. Some devoted Sisters of Charity were introduced in a moment of perplexity and panic; then all went well — propriety, cleanliness, and comfort prevailed. “No day passes,” said my informant, “that I do not bless God for the change which I was the humble instrument of accomplishing in this place!”

Very similar was the information I received relative to the naval hospital at Genoa  but I had not the opportunity of visiting it.

Another excellent hospital at Turin, that of St. John, contained, when I visited it, 400 patients, a nearly equal number of men and women. There were, besides, a separate ward for sick children, and two wards containing about sixty “incurables ” — the bedridden and helpless poor, of the same class which find refuge in our workhouses. The whole of this large establishment was under the management of twenty-two religious women, with a staff of about forty-five assistants, men and women, and a large number of medical men and students. All was clean, and neat, and cheerful. I was particularly struck by the neatness with which the food was served; men brought it up in large trays, but the ladies themselves distributed it. Some friends of the poor sick were near the beds: I remember being touched by the sight of a little dog which, with its fore-paws resting on the bed and a pathetic wistful expression in its drooping face, kept its eyes steadfastly fixed on the sick man; a girl was kneeling beside him, to whom one of the Sisters was speaking words of comfort.

In this hospital and others I have found an excellent arrangement for the night-watch: it was a large sentry- box of an octagon-shape, looking each way, the upper part all of glass, but furnished with curtains: and on a kind of dresser or table were arranged writing materials, all kinds of medicine and restoratives which might be required in haste, and a supply of linen, napkins, &c. Here two Sisters watched all night long; here the accounts were kept and the private business of the wards carried on in the daytime: a certain degree of privacy was thus secured for the ladies on duty when necessary. The Superior, whom we should call the matron, was an elderly woman, wearing the same simple convenient religious dress as the others, and only recognised by the large bunch of keys at her girdle.

The Marchese Alfieri, one of the governors of the Hospice ‘de la Maternité, described to me in terms of horror the state in which he had found the establishment when under the management of a board of governors who employed hired matrons and nurses. At last, in despair, he sent for some trained Sisters, ten of whom, with a Superior, now directed the whole in that spirit of order, cheerfulness, and unremitting attention, which belongs to them. The Marchese particularly dwelt on their economy. ” We cannot,” said he, ” give them unlimited means (des fonds à discretion), for these good ladies think that all should go to the poor; but if we allow them a fixed sum, we find they can do more with that sum than we could have believed possible, and they never go beyond it: they are admirable accountants and economists.”

In a recent visit to Italy (1857, 1858), want of health precluded me from making inquiries; and yet more from substantiating them by the testimony of my own eyes: therefore I will say little, though some observation may have interest as bearing on the present theme and the existing state of things. I found in Italy rather a feeling of suspicion towards the religious orders of charitable women, as instruments of the priesthood. I found the young men vulgarised by the want of refined female society, even to a greater degree than among ourselves. When I have heard the Italian Liberals denouncing the feminine influences used against them, I have expressed astonishment why, if the influence were allowed to be powerful, they did not make some effort to have it on their side in a higher and better form? With regard to the female management in the hospitals, it had been found indispensable: yet, except among the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, there was a want of good training, and these Secure de Charité, from their freedom and their ubiquity, being uncloistered, I found especially objects of the popular suspicion, even while the poor had recourse to them in their maladies and their troubles, especially with their children, — the small girls’ schools kept by these Sisters being in general the only training for the female children of the lower orders.

In the magnificent hospital at Siena I found that the medical students had, in 1848, succeeded in getting the Sisters expelled; but after a few months they were obliged to be recalled. In their absence the internal economy of the hospital had fallen into almost ” cureless ruin.” I found the nursing department in the hands of twenty-six Sisters; and I found two of these energetic women standing, with a pile of prescriptions before them, preparing the medicines, and distributing them according to the orders of the medical officers ; and the women were found perhaps as delicate, as experienced, and as conscientious as any apothecaries’ boys. But the circumstances under which they had been expelled and then brought back did not, I fancy, contribute to the ‘harmonious working of the male and female officials in this instance. The ventilation and cleanliness were perfect, and in point of situation and general arrangement I have seen nothing superior to this fine hospital. It forms one side of the square, in which stands the beautiful cathedral, and the palace fills up the other side. This propinquity suggests many thoughts; but once I saw these associations .brought into a peculiarly picturesque, and I might say, fearful contrast. It was when the Grand Duke of Tuscany entertained the Pope on his progress in August, 1857. I stood that evening on the marble steps of the Duomo : the palace was gaily illuminated. Guards were drawn up before the entrance, and a band of music was playing ; the lights flashed on the equipages of the high ecclesiastics and on their purple and scarlet costumes, and on the glittering orders and accoutrements of the civil and military officers who were gathered to be presented to his Holiness : out- side the guards the people formed a dense, silent crowd. This was the scene on the left hand; opposite, in darkest shadow, stood the hospital. Here and there a single taper, (the watch-light near some bed of suffering) gleamed dimly from the windows. In front of the entrance stood a party of that religious brotherhood, the Misericordia, so familiar to those who have lived at Florence or Siena, whose duty it is to give decent burial to the poor. They stood there, a still, solemn group, in their black robes and masks, waiting till the dead should be brought forth. It appeared: — they lifted the bier on their shoulders ; the priest raised his cross, the low funeral chant began, heard distinctly through the clash of the band, and they moved away, the crowd opening for them, some falling on their knees ; and thus down the narrow street I watched them disappear, and never perhaps were the pomps and vanities, the miseries and the vicissitudes of life, brought into more close and startling contrast.

I could relate much more of what I have seen in hospitals at home and abroad; but this Lecture is intended to be suggestive only, and for this purpose I have said enough. Yet, before I pass on to another part of my subject, I must be allowed to make one or two observations on the testimony’ before me relative to the moral and {medical efficiency of the lady-nurses sent to the East.

In the midst of many differences of opinion, in one thing all are agreed: all to whom I have spoken, without one exception, bear witness to the salutary influence exercised by the lady-nurses over the men, and the submission and gratitude of the patients. In the most violent attacks of fever and delirium, when the orderlies could not hold them down in their beds, the mere presence of one of these ladies, instead of being exciting, had the effect of instantly calming the spirits and subduing the most refractory. It is allowed also that these ladies had the power to repress swearing and bad and coarse language ; to prevent the smuggling of brandy and raka into the wards ; to open the hearts of the sullen and desperate to contrition and responsive kindness. The facts are recorded, and remain uncontradicted; but the natural inference to be drawn from them does not seem to have struck our medical men.

With regard to the feeling between the nurses and the patients, here is a page of testimony from one of the nurses, which can hardly be read without emotion.

“We have attended many hundreds of the sick in the British army, suffering under every form of disease — the  weary, wasting, low typhus fever or dysentery; or the agonies of the frost bite; and they were surrounded by every accumulation of misery. For the fevered lips there was no cooling drink, for the sinking frame no strengthening food, for the wounded limb no soft pillow, for many no watchful hands to help ; but never did we hear a murmur pass their lips. Those whose privilege it was to nurse them noticed only obedience to orders, respectful gratitude, patience, and the most self-denying consideration for those who ministered. Even when in an apparently dying state they would look up in our faces and smile.”

She adds in another place, with deep natural feeling, “It was so sad to see them die one after another; we learned to love them so!”

“We were trained,” she says, ” under the hospital nurses at home, receiving our instructions from them; and what we saw there of disobedience to medical orders and cruelty to patients would fill pages, and make you shudder. More of evil language was heard in one hour in a London hospital than met my ears during months in a military one.”

The drawbacks in regard to our volunteer ladies were not want of sense nor want of zeal, but the want of robust health, experience, and sufficient training.

The experiment of a staff of the volunteer lady-nurses from St. John’s House, with paid and trained nurses under their orders, has lately been made in King’s College Hospital. I think I may say that it has so far succeeded.

I have the testimony of one of the gentlemen filling a high official situation at the hospital, (and who was at first opposed to the introduction of these ladies, or at least most doubtful of their success,) that they have up to this time succeeded; that strong prejudices have been overcome, ‘ that there has been a purifying and harmonising influence at work since their arrival. The testimony borne by the ladies themselves to the courtesy of the medical men and the students, and the entire harmony with which they now work together, struck me even more.

The same conquest was obtained by the volunteer ladies in the Crimea. One of them says, “So misrepresented were the army-surgeons that the Sisters and Ladies feared them more than any other horrors.” “We were told to expect rebuff, discouragement, even insult. We never during this whole year experienced any other than assistance, encouragement, gentlemanly treatment, and, from many, the most cordial kindness.-Of course there were some exceptions, but this was to be expected; and in reference to the principle for which I am now pleading,  “the communion of labour,” I consider this testimony very satisfactory.


I must now say a few words with regard to female ad ministration in prisons.

After the revelations made by Howard seventy or eighty years ago, and their immediate effect in rousing the attention and sympathy of Europe, one would have thought it impossible to fall back into the ghastly horrors he had dis covered and exposed. Yet in 1816, his name was already almost forgotten. The acts of parliament he had procured “were become a dead letter, were openly and grossly violated. The very slow progress made by moral influences in the last century is very striking, taken in connection with the cold and formal scepticism which then found favour with men who fancied themselves philosophers, but were only leading a popular reaction against the formal theological superstitions of the previous century. There was indeed, with much intellectual movement, a deadness of feeling, an indifference to the well-being of the masses, an utterly low standard of principle, religious, moral, political, winch in these days of a more awakened public conscience seems hardly conceivable. We make slow work of it now; we want a higher standard in high places ; but in this at leant we are improved, — men do not note dispute that such or such things ought to be done, may be done, must be done ; unhappily they do dispute endlessly as to the how, the when, and the where, till they defeat their own purposes, allow great principles to be shelved by wretched perplexities of detail, and shrink back, cowed by the passive, stolid resistance of ignorance and self-interest. Forty years after the publication of Howard’s “State of Prisons, what was the state of the greatest prison in England ? When Elizabeth Fry ventured into that ” den of wild beasts,” as it was called, the female ward in Newgate, about 300 women were found crammed together, begging, swearing, drinking, fighting, gambling, dancing, and dressing up in men’s clothes, and two jailors set to watch them, who stood jeering at the door, literally afraid to enter. Elizabeth Fry would have been as safe ‘in the men’s wards as among her own sex; she would certainly have exercised there an influence as healing, as benign, as redeeming; but she did well in the first instance, and in the then state of public feeling, to confine her efforts to the miserable women.

I know that there are many persons who would receive with a laugh of scorn or a shudder of disgust, the idea of having virtuous, religious, refined, well-educated women, brought into contact with wretched and depraved prisoners of the other sex. It would even be more revolting than the idea of a born lady — a Florence Nightingale, or a Miss Anderson, or a Miss Shaw Stewart — nursing a wounded soldier, appeared only two years ago. Yet this is precisely what I wish to see tried. Captain Maconochie mentions the influence which his wife exercised over the most hardened and horrible criminals, the convicts at Norfolk Island : because she was fearless, and gentle, and a woman, those men respected her — they who respected nothing else in heaven or earth. It was something like the sanitary influence which the surgeon’s wife exercised over the cholera patients in a military hospital, and which I mentioned in my former Lecture. Such instances might be multiplied; — indeed many such cases are matters of notoriety ; but so far as I can see, they are always regarded as the consequence of accident, not the result of an essential law; they have led to no farther experiments, and no inference to guide us systematically has been drawn from them.

In my Lecture last year I mentioned the employment of trained Sisters of Charity in some of the prisons of Piedmont. When I was there a few months ago, I obtained, by the courtesy of our ambassador, a written memorandum of the rules and regulations applied to them, the conditions under which they were employed, and the price paid for their services to the religious institutions they belonged to. I think it unnecessary to give here the twenty-three articles of this regulation, which would not be applicable, at least only partially applicable, in this country. It appears that twenty-eight of these ladies are employed in five reformatory prisons (one of which is for females, the others for men), and that eight of the other prisons (Carceri giudiziarie) are partly administered by the “Suore” but the number was not fixed in each prison.

In the general Report on the condition of the prisons, addressed to the Minister of the Interior, I found this paragraph, which I translate from the original Italian: —

“It is an indisputable fact that the prisons which are served by the Sisters are the best ordered, the most cleanly, and in all respects the best regulated in the country ; hence it is to be desired that the number should be increased ; and this is the more desirable because where the Sisters are not established, the criminal women are under the charge of jailors of the other sex, which ought not to be tolerated.”

To this I add the testimony of the Minister himself from, a private communication. “Not only have we experienced the advantage of employing the Sisters of Charity in the prisons, in the supervision of the details, in distributing food, preparing medicines, and nursing the sick in the infirmaries; but we find that the influence of these ladies on the minds of the prisoners, when recovering from sickness, has been productive of the greatest benefit, as leading to permanent reform in many cases and a better frame of mind always: for this reason, among others, we have given them every encouragement.”

Among the other reasons alluded to, the greater economy of the management was a principal one. It is admitted, even by those who are opposed to them, that in the administration of details these women can always make a given sum go much farther than the paid officials of the other ,.’ sex. I must add that, in some of the prisons mentioned to me, canteens were allowed, where the prisoners, besides their rations, might purchase various indulgences. These canteens were placed under the direction of the Sisters; but as they protested against the sale of wine and brandy to the prisoners, except when medically prescribed, some disagreement arose between them and the other officials, and I do not know how it terminated.

Even at the risk of wearying you with this part of my subject, I will venture to describe, as briefly as I can, a certain reformatory prison of a very unusual kind, and which left a strong impression on my mind of the good that may be effected by very simple means. A prison governed chiefly by women — and the women as well as the men who directed it responsible only to the Government, and not merely subordinate like the female officers in our prisons- was a singular spectacle; and I hope it will be distinctly understood that in describing what I have seen, it is not with any idea that these arrangements could be, or ought — to be, exactly imitated among us. I only suggest the facts as illustrative of the principle I advocate, and as worthy of the consideration of humane and philosophic thinkers.

This prison at Neudorf is an experiment which as yet has only had a three years’ trial, but it has so completely succeeded up to this time that they are preparing to organise eleven other prisons on the same plan. From a conversation I had with one of the Government officers, I could understand that the economy of the administration is a strong recommendation, as well as the moral success. Its origin is worth mentioning. It began by the efforts made by two humane ladies to find a refuge for those wretched creatures of their own sex who, after undergoing their term of punishment, were cast out of the prisons. These, ladies, not finding at hand any persons prepared to carry out their views, sent to France for two women of a religious order which was founded for the reformation of lost and depraved women; and two of the Sisters were sent from Angers accordingly. After a while this small institution attracted the notice of the Government. It was taken in hand officially, enlarged, and organised as a prison as well as a penitentiary; the original plan being strictly adhered to, and the same management retained.

At the time that I visited it, this prison consisted of several different buildings and a large garden enclosed by high walls. The inmates were divided into three classes completely separated. The first were the criminals, the most desperate characters, brought there from the prisons at Vienna, and the very refuse of those prisons. They had been brought there six or eight at a time, fettered hand and foot, and guarded by soldiers and policemen.

The second class, drafted from the first, were called penitents  they were allowed to assist in the house, to cook, and to wash, and to work in the garden, which last was a great boon. There were more than fifty of this class.

The third class were the voluntaries, those who, when their term of punishment and penitence had expired, preferred remaining in the house, and were allowed to do so. They were employed in work of which a part of the profit was retained for their benefit. There were about twelve or fourteen of this class. The whole number of criminals then in the prison exceeded 200, and they expected more the next day.

To manage these unhappy, disordered, perverted creatures, there were twelve women, assisted by three chaplains, a surgeon, and a physician : none of the men resided in the house, but visited it every day. The soldiers and police officers, who had been sent in the first instance as guards and jailors, had been dismissed. The dignity, good sense, patience, and tenderness of this female board of management were extraordinary. The ventilation and the cleanliness were perfect; while the food, beds, and furniture were of the very coarsest kind. The medical supervision was important, where there was as much disease— of frightful, physical disease — as there was of moral disease, crime, and misery. There was a surgeon and physician, who visited daily. There was a dispensary, under the care of two Sisters who acted as chief nurses and apothecaries. One of these was busy with the sick, the other went round with me. She was a little, active woman, not more than two or three and thirty, with a most cheerful face and bright, kind, dark eyes. She had been two years in the prison, and had previously received a careful training of five years — three years in the general duties of her vocation, and two years of medical training. She spoke with great intelligence of the differences of individual temperament, requiring a different medical and moral treatment.

The Sister who superintended the care of the criminals was the oldest I saw, and she was bright-looking also. The Superior, who presided over the whole establishment, had a serious look, and a pale, care-worn, but perfectly mild and dignified face.

The difference between the countenances of those criminals who had lately arrived, and those who had been admitted into the class of penitents, was extraordinary. The first were either stupid, gross, and vacant, or absolutely frightful from the predominance of evil propensities. The latter were at least humanised.

When I expressed my astonishment that so small a_ number of women could manage such a set of wild and wicked creatures, the answer was “If we want assistance we shall have it; but it is as easy with our system to manage two hundred or three hundred as one hundred or fifty.” She then added devoutly, “The power is not in ourselves, it is granted from above.” It was plain that she had the most perfect faith in that power, and in the text which declared all things possible to faith.

We must bear in mind that here men and women were acting together; that in all the regulations, religious and sanitary, there was mutual aid, mutual respect, an interchange of experience; but the women were subordinate only to the chief civil and ecclesiastical authority; the internal administration rested with them.

I hope it will be remembered here, and in other parts of this essay, that I am not arguing for any particular system of administration, or discipline, or kind or degree of punishment; but merely for this principle, that whatever be the system selected as the best, it should be carried out by a due admixture of female influence and management combined with the man’s government.

Reformatory Schools.

If what I have said of the salutary effects of female influence in prisons carry any weight, yet more does it apply to the employment of superior women in the Reformatory schools for young criminals. Profligate boys, accustomed to see only the most coarse and depraved women (their own female relatives are in general examples of the worst class), would be especially touched and tamed by the mere presence of a better order of women. I observe that in the last report of the school at Mettrai, mention is made of the nine Sisters of Charity who are employed to superintend the kitchen and infirmary; which last consists of a ward with about ten beds, and a corridor where the Sisters receive the out-patients  and to the constant watch- El fulness, medical skill, and gentle influence of these women much good is attributed.

Mr. F. Hill, in his work on Crime, in speaking of the officials in the reformatory prisons for boys, says expressly . that some of these officials ought to be women “for the sake of female influence, and to call into action those family feelings, which Mr. Sidney Turner and Miss Carpenter think of such vital importance in the process of reformation.” This is precisely the principle for which I am pleading, and in organising the new reformatory institutions it might be advantageously kept in view.

“It should be remembered,” adds Mr. Hill, “that up to the time of his commitment, a criminal has often had no one to give him counsel or sympathy, no virtuous parent or kind relative to feel for him or guide him aright, and that there is consequently in his case a void which is perhaps first filled up by a kind prison officer. This may account for the almost filial affection often shown, particularly by the younger prisoners, towards a good governor, chaplain, or matron.” What we’ have now to do is to enlarge the application of this principle.

The extreme difficulty of finding masters at the best of all our reformatory schools, that at Redhill, was the subject discussed in a meeting of benevolent and intelligent men, interested in this institution. I happened to be present. I heard the qualifications for a master to be set over these unhappy little delinquents thus described: — He must have great tenderness and kindness of heart, great power of calling forth and sympathising with the least !’ manifestations of goodness or hopefulness ; quick perception of character ; great firmness, and judgment, and command of temper ; skill in some handicraft, as carpentering and gardening ; a dignified or at least attractive presence, and good manners, — the personal qualities and appearance being found of consequence to impress the boys with respect. Now it is just possible that all these rare and admirable qualities, some of which God has given in a larger degree to the woman and others to the man, might be found combined in one man; but such a man has not yet been met with, and many such would hardly be found for a stipend of 30l or 40l a year. Then, in this dilemma, instead of insisting on a combination of the paternaland the maternal qualifications in one person, might it not be possible, by associating some well educated and well trained women in the administration of these schools, to produce the required influences — the tender ness, the sympathy, the superior manners, and refined deportment on one hand, and the firmness and energy, the manly government, and skill in handicrafts and gardening, on the other ? This solution was not proposed by any one of the gentlemen who spoke ; it did not seem to occur to any one present; and yet is it not worth consideration? At all events I must express my conviction that, going on as they are now doing, without the combination of those influences which ought to represent in such a community the maternal and sisterly, as well as the paternal and fraternal, relations of the home, their efforts will be in vain : their admirable institution will fall to pieces sooner or later, and people will attribute such a result to every possible cause except the real one.

Penitentiaries and Houses of Refuge.

The reformatory schools for perverted and criminal girls present many more difficulties than those for boys. I do * not know how it is intended to meet these especial difficulties, nor what consideration has as yet been given to them, nor in whose hands the administration of these reformatory schools is to be placed ; for all I have as yet heard upon the subject, and all the pamphlets and authorities I have been able to consult, have reference principally to the treatment of delinquent boys, and very little mention is made of the poor female children of the “perishing and dangerous class” — (perishing and dangerous in every sense of these words they too surely are!) One thing is most certain, that in their case the supervision of pure- minded, humane, intelligent, and experienced men will .be as necessary as the feminine element in the reformatory schools for boys ; and for similar reasons, medical know ledge will be required in addition to the moral and religious influences. This has, I think, obtained too little consideration, and it is one of great importance.

It is worth noticing that a proposal, made during this session of parliament [July 15, 1856], to aid the female penitentiaries by a grant of public money, however small, and thus obtain from the government the mere recognition of the existence of such institutions and their necessity, fell to the ground ; even the usual deprecatory intimation that it would be “considered and brought forward next session,” — the common device by which troublesome propositions are stifled or shuffled off, — was not here vouchsafed: the motion was received with absolute silence, and set aside by a few words from the speaker.

I can conceive that there might be many reasons for this reluctance to discuss such themes officially. It might not only offend the nice decorum of our House of Commons ; it might perhaps awaken in some generous and conscientious mind, a keener touch of retrospective pity, a more acute and self-reproachful pain. Let us, therefore, set the past aside; let us accept the excuse that a far lower standard of feeling and opinion existed on this miserable subject some years ago ; and let us think with gratitude of the more hopeful present, of the wiser and better future which we may anticipate both for men and women.

And since these female reformatories must eventually find their place among the public exigencies to be considered, one may ask, what makes the case of poor, depraved, delinquent girls far worse in itself, far more difficult to deal with, far more hopeless altogether, than that of depraved delinquent boys? How is it that, below the lowest class of men, there is a lower class of women, abased by the total loss of self-respect, and perverse from a sense of perpetual wrong ? It is so, we are told ; but why is it so? Does it arise from the greater delicacy of the organisation — from the perpetual outrage to the nature of the creature thus sacrificed ? I cannot go into these questions at present. I must leave them to be considered and settled by such of our medical men and our clergy who may be — what all of them ought to be — what our Saviour was on earth — moralists and philosophers; for these questions are of the deepest import, and must be settled sooner or later. Meantime it is allowed that the female reformatories now existing are utterly insignificant and inadequate in comparison to the existing amount of evil and misery; it is allowed that they present peculiar and unmanageable difficulties, that they are not successful, even the best of them. You hear it said that a hundredfold of the money, the labour, expended on them ought not to be regarded as thrown away, if but one soul out of twenty were redeemed from perdition. All very proper and very pious. But how is it that in this case nineteen souls out of the twenty arc supposed to be consigned to a perdition past cure, past hope, past help ? The truth is, that it is not merely the peculiar difficulties, nor the horror of corrupting influences, which interpose to prevent success: it is the incredible rashness and almost incredible mistakes of those who ignorantly, but in perfect good faith and self-complacency, undertake a task which requires all the aid of long training, experience, and knowledge, combined with the impulses of benevolence, the support of religious faith,— and, I will add, a genuine vocation such as I have seen in some characters.

When I was at Turin, I visited an institution for the redemption of “unfortunate girls” (as they call themselves*, poor creatures!, which appeared to me peculiarly successful. I did not consider it perfect, nor could all its details be imitated here. Yet some of the natural principles, recognised and carried out, appeared to me most important. It seemed to have achieved for female victims and delinquents what Mettrai has done for those of the other sex.

This institution (called at Turin il Refugio, the Refuge) * was founded nearly thirty years ago by a “good Christian,” whose name was not given to me, but who still lives, a very old man. When his means were exhausted he had recourse to the Marquise de Barol, who has from that time devoted her life, and the greater part of her possessions, to the objects of this institution.

In the Memoirs of Mrs. Fry there maybe found a letter which Madame de Barol addressed to her on the subject of this institution and its objects, when it had existed for three or four years only. The letter is dated 1829, and is very interesting. Madame de Barol told me candidly, in 1855, that in the commencement she had made mistakes: she had been too severe. It had required twenty years of reflection, experience, and the most able assistance, to work out her purposes.

The institution began on a small scale with few inmates : it now covers a large space of ground, and several ranges of buildings for various departments, all connected, and yet most carefully separated. There are several distinct gardens enclosed by these buildings, and the green trees and flowers give an appearance of cheerfulness to the whole.

There is, first, a refuge for casual and extreme wretched ness. A certificate from a priest or a physician is required, but often dispensed with. I saw a child brought into this place by its weeping and despairing mother — a child about ten years old, and in a fearful state. There was no certificate in this case, but the wretched little creature was taken in at once. There is an infirmary admirably managed by a good physician and two medical Sisters of a religious order. There are also convalescent wards. These parts of the building are kept separate, and the inmates carefully classed, all the younger patients being in a separate ward.

In the penitentiary and schools, forming the second department, the young girls and children are kept distinct from the elder ones, and those who had lately entered from the others. I saw about twenty girls under the age of fifteen, but only a few together in one room. Only a few were tolerably handsome; many looked intelligent and kindly. In one of these rooms I found a tame thrush hop ping about, and I remember a girl with a soft face crumbling some bread for it, saved from her dinner. Beading, wilting, plain work, and embroidery are taught, also cooking, and other domestic work. A certain number assisted by rotation in the large, lightsome kitchens, and the general service of the house, but not till they had been there some months, and had received badges for good conduct. There are three gradations of these badges of merit, earned by various terms of probation. It was quite clear to me that these badges were worn with pleasure : whenever I fixed my eyes upon the little bits of red or blue ribbon, attached to the dress, and smiled approbation, I was met by a responsive smile — sometimes by a deep, modest blush. The third and highest order of merit, which was a certificate of good conduct and steady industry during three years at least, conferred the privilege of entering an order destined to nurse the sick in the infirmary, or entrusted, to keep order in the small classes. They had also a still higher privilege. And now I come to a part of the institution which excited my strongest sympathy and admiration. Appended to it is an infant hospital for the children of the very lowest orders — children born diseased or deformed, or maimed by accidents, — epileptic or crippled. In this hospital were thirty-two poor suffering infants, carefully tended by such of the penitents as had earned this privilege. On a rainy day I found these poor little things taking their daily exercise in a long airy corridor. Over the clean shining floor was spread temporarily a piece of coarse grey drugget that their feet might not slip ; and so they were led along, creeping, crawling, or trying to walk or run, with bandaged heads and limbs — carefully and tenderly helped and watched by the nurses, who were themselves under the supervision of one of the religious Sisters already mentioned.

There is a good dispensary, well supplied with common medicines, and served by a well instructed Sister of Charity, with the help of one of the inmates whom she had trained. Any inmate is free to leave the Refuge whenever she pleases, and may be received a second time, but not a third time.

Any inmate is free to leave the Refuge whenever she pleases, and may be received a second time, but not a third time.

I was told that when these girls leave the institution, after a probation of three or four years, there is no difficulty in finding them good places, as servants, cooks, washer women, and even nurses; but all do not leave it. Those who, after a residence of six years, preferred to remain, might do so: they were devoted to a religious and laborious life, and lived in a part of the building which had a sort of conventual sanctity and seclusion. They are styled “les Madeleines ” (Magdalens). I saw sixteen of such; and I had the opportunity of observing them. They were all superior in countenance and organisation, and belonged apparently to a better class. They were averse to re entering the world, had been disgusted and humiliated by their bitter experience of vice, and disliked or were unfitted for servile occupations. They had a manufactory of artificial flowers, were skilful embroiderers and needlewomen, and supported themselves by the produce of their work. They were no longer objects of pity or dependent on charity: they had become objects of respect — and more than respect, of reverence. One of them who had a talent for music, Madame de Barol had caused to be properly instructed : she was the organist of the chapel and the music mistress: she had taught several of her companions to sing. A piano stood in the centre of the room, and they executed a little concert for us: everything was done easily and quietly, without effort or display. When I looked in the faces of these young women — the eldest was not more than thirty — so serene, so healthful, and in some instances so dignified, I found it difficult to recall the depth of misery, degradation and disease out of which they had risen.

The whole number of inmates was about 140, without reckoning the thirty-two sick children. Madame de Barol said that this infant hospital was a most efficient means of thorough reform; it called out what was best in the disposition of the penitents, and was indeed a test of the diameter and temper.

If this institution had been more in the country, and if some of the penitents (or patients), whose robust physique seemed to require it, could have been provided with plenty of work in the open air, such as gardening, keeping cows or poultry, &c, I should have considered the arrangements, for a Catholic country, perfect. They are calculated to fulfil all the conditions of moral and physical convalescence; early rising ; regular, active, useful employment; thorough cleanliness; the strictest order; an even, rather cool temperature ; abundance of light and fresh air ; and more than these, religious hope wisely and kindly cultivated; companionship, cheerfulness, and the opportunity of exercising the sympathetic and benevolent affections.

If these conditions could be adopted in some of the female penitentiaries at home, I think failure would be less common; but since the difficulty of redemption is found to be so great, should we not take the more thought for prevention ? Among the causes of the evil are some which I should not like to touch upon here : but there are others, and not the least important, which may be discussed without offence. The small payment and the limited sphere of employment allotted to the women of the working classes are mentioned by a competent witness as one of the causes of vice leading to crime. ” Much I believe would be done towards securing the virtue of the female sex, and therefore towards the general diminution of profligacy, if the practical injustice were put an end to by which women are excluded from many kinds of employment for which they are naturally qualified. The general monopoly which the members of the stronger sex have established for themselves is surely most unjust, and, like all other kinds of injustice, recoils on its perpetrators.”  The same writer observes in another place”: — “The payment for the labour of females in this country is often so small as to demand, for obtaining an honest living, a greater power of endurance and self-control than can reasonably be expected.”

Here then is the direct testimony of an experienced man, that the more we can employ women in work fitted to their powers, the stronger the barrier we shall oppose to misery and intemperance, and more especially to that pestilence “which walketh in darkness,” and to which we can hardly bring ourselves to give a name.


I come now to an institution peculiar to ourselves; and truly can I affirm that if ever the combination of female with masculine supervision were imperatively needed, it is in an English parish workhouse. Really it is not without a mingled feeling of shame and fear that I approach the subject. I shall be told that it is very un-English and very unpatriotic to expose our social delinquencies —- particularly as I have just been praising some foreign institutions. It is not an excuse for us that on some points other nations are as bad as ourselves or worse but it is a disgrace to us if they are in advance on those very points where publicity and freedom of discussion ought to have shielded us from mistake.

I have seen many workhouses and of all grades. The regulation of details varies in different parishes. Some are admirably clean, and, as far as mere machinery can go, admirably managed; some are dirty and ill ventilated; and one or two, as we learn from recent disclosures, quite in a disgraceful state : but whatever the arrangement and condition, in one thing I found all alike; — the want of, a proper moral supervision. I do not say this in the grossest sense ; though even in that sense, I have known of things I could hardly speak of. But surely I may say there is want of proper moral supervision where the most vulgar of human beings are set to rule over the most vulgar ; where the pauper is set to manage the pauper ; where the ignorant govern the ignorant ; where the aged and infirm minister, to the aged and infirm ; where every softening and elevating influence is absent, or of rare occurrence, and every hardening and depraving influence continuous and ever at hand. Never did I visit any dungeon, any abode of crime or misery, in any country, which left the same crushing sense of sorrow, indignation, and compassion — almost despair — as some of our English workhouses. Never did I see more. clearly what must be the inevitable consequences, where the feminine and religious influences are ignored; where, what we call charity is worked by a stern, hard machinery; where what we mean for good is not bestowed but inflicted on others, in a spirit not pitiful nor merciful, but reluctant and adverse, if not cruel. Perhaps those who hear me may. not all be aware of the origin of our parish workhouses? They were intended to be religious and charitable institutions, to supply the place of those conventual hospitals and charities which with their revenues were suppressed by Henry VIII. For our Reformation I am thankful, as those should be to whom liberty of thought is dear ; but I cannot help wishing, with Dr. Arnold, that in our country it had been carried out by purer minds and cleaner hands ; that *’ the badness of the agents had not disgraced the goodness of the cause;” that in rooting up evils and abuses, long rooted charities had not also been torn up. I cannot say that as yet our parish workhouses have replaced them, in this sense. The epithet charitable could never be applied to any parish workhouse I have seen. Our machine charity is as much charity in the Christian sense as the praying machines of the Tartars are piety.

The purpose of a workhouse is to be a refuge to the homeless, houseless, helpless poor; to night- wanderers; to orphan children; to the lame and blind; to the aged, who here lie down on their last bed to die.

The number of inmates varies in different parishes at different seasons, from 400 to 1000. In the great London unions it is generally from 500 to 2000. In the Liverpool workhouse the number is often as high as 3000.

These institutions are supported by a variable tax, paid so reluctantly, with so little sympathy in its purpose, that the wretched paupers seem to be regarded as a sort of parish locusts sent to devour the substance of the rate-payers, — – as the natural enemies of those who are taxed for their subsistence, — almost as criminals; and I have no hesitation in saying that the convicts in some of our jails have more charitable and more respectful treatment than the poor in our workhouses: hence a notion prevails among the working classes that it is better to be a criminal than a pauper; better to go to a jail than a workhouse; and to all appearance it is so.

The administration of the parish funds for the purposes of charity is in the hands of a board of parish officers, who are elected — but I do not know on what principle of selection — to discharge one of the most sacred trusts that can be exercised by any responsible human being.

Between the poor and their so-called “guardians,” the bond is anything but charity. I have known men among them conscientious and kindly, and willing to give time and trouble; but in a board of guardians the gentlemen, that is, the well educated, intelligent, and compassionate, are generally in a minority, and can do little or nothing against the passive resistance to all innovation, the most obdurate prejudices, the most vulgar jealousy. A gentleman who had served the office said to me, “I am really unfit to be a poor-law guardian ; I have some vestige of humanity left in me!”

Under these guardians are the officials, who are brought into immediate contact with the poor; a master and a matron, who keep the accounts, distribute food and clothing, and keep order. Among them, some are respected and . loved, others hated or feared ; soma are kindly and intelligent, others of the lowest grade. What were the antecedents of these officials, what the qualifications required, | and upon whom rested the deep responsibility of the choice, I never clearly understood. In one workhouse the master had been a policeman; in another, the keeper of a small’ public-house; in another, he had served in the same work house as porter. Where the duties are merely mechanical, and nothing required but to work the material machinery of a stringent system, this may answer very well. The sub ordinates are not of a higher grade, except occasionally the school-masters and school-mistresses, whom I have some times found struggling to perform their duties, sometimes quite unfitted for them, and sometimes resigned to routine and despair.

In the wards for the old and the sick, the intense vulgarity, the melancholy dulness, mingled with a strange licence and levity, are dreadful. I attribute both the dulness and the levity to the total absence of the religious and the feminine element.

But you will say, how can the religious element be wanting? Is there not always a chaplain? The chaplain has seemed to me, in such places, rather a religious accident, than a religious clement: when most good and zealous, his can be no constant and pervading influence. When he visits a ward to read and pray once a week, perhaps there is decorum in his presence; the oaths, the curses, the vile language cease, the vulgar strife .is silenced — to recommence the moment his back is turned. I know one instance in which the chaplain had been ill for two months, and no one had supplied his place, except for the Sunday services, where the bed-ridden poor cannot attend. I remember an in stance in which the chaplain had requested that the poor profligate women might be kept out of his way : — they had indeed shown themselves somewhat obstreperous and irreverent. I saw, not long ago, a chaplain of a great work house so dirty and shabby, that I should have mistaken him for one of the paupers. In doing his duty he would fling a surplice over his dirty, torn coat, kneel down at the entrance of a ward, not even giving himself the trouble to advance to the middle of the room, hurry over two or three prayers, heard from the few beds nearest to him, and then off to another ward. The salary of this priest for the sick and the poor was twenty pounds a year. This, then, is the religious element; — as if religion were not the necessary, inseparable, ever-present, informing spirit of a Christian charitable institution, but rather something extraneous and occasional, to be taken in set doses at set times. To awaken the faith, to rouse the conscience, to heal the broken in spirit, to light up the stupified faculties of a thousand unhappy, ignorant, debased human beings congregated together, — can a chaplain going his weekly rounds suffice for this?

Then as to the feminine element, I will describe it. In. a great and well-ordered workhouse, under conscientious management, I visited sixteen wards, in each ward from fifteen to twenty-five sick, aged, bed-ridden, or, as in some cases, idle and helpless poor. In each ward all the assistance given and all the supervision were in the hands of one nurse and a “helper,” both chosen from among the pauper women who were supposed to be the least immoral and drunken. The ages of the nurses might be from sixty-five to eighty; the assistants were younger. I recollect seeing, in a provincial workhouse, a ward in which were ten old women all helpless and bedridden : to nurse them was a decrepit old woman of seventy, lean, and withered, and feeble; and her assistant was a girl with one eve, and scarcely able to see with the other. In a ward where I found eight paralysed old women, the nurse being equally aged, the helper was a girl who had lost the use of one hand. Only the other day I saw a pauper nurse in a sick ward who had a wooden leg. I remember no cheerful faces : when the features and deportment were not debased by drunkenness, or stupidity, or ill-humour, they were melancholy, or sullen, or bloated, or harsh: — and these are the sisters of charity to whom our sick poor arc confided!

In one workhouse the nurses had a penny a week and extra beer; in another the allowance had been a shilling a month, but recently withdrawn by the guardians from motives of economy. The matron told me that while this allowance continued, she could exercise a certain power over the nurses — she could stop their allowance if they did not behave well; now she has no hold on them! In another workhouse, I asked the matron to point out one whom she considered the best conducted and most efficient nurse. She pointed to a crabbed, energetic-looking old woman: “She is active, and cleanly, and to be depended on so long as we can keep her from drink. But they all drink! Whenever it is their turn to go out for a few hours they come back intoxicated, and have to be put to bed:” — put to bed intoxicated in the wards they are set to rule over!

The patients often hate the nurses, and have not fear or respect enough to prevent them from returning their bad language and abuse. Of the sort of attention paid to help less creatures under their care you may perhaps form some idea. I know that in one workhouse a poor woman could get no help but by bribery : any little extra allowance of tea or sugar left by pitying friends went in this manner. The friends and relations, themselves poor, who came to visit some bedridden parent, or maimed husband, or idiotic child, generally brought some trifle to bribe the nurses ; and I have heard of a nurse in one of the great London workhouses, who made five shillings a week by thus fleecing the poor inmates and their friends in pennies and sixpences. Those who would not pay this tax were neglected, and implored in vain to be turned in their beds. The matron knows that these things exist, but she has no power to prevent them ; she exercises no moral authority : she sees that the beds are clean, the floor daily scoured, the food duly distributed ; what tyranny may be exercised in her absence by these old hags, her deputies, she has no means of knowing; for the wretched creatures under their care dare not complain, knowing how it would be visited upon them. I will not now torture you by a description of what I know to have been inflicted and endured in these abodes of pauperism, — the perpetual scolding, squabbling, swearing. Neither peace, nor forbearance, nor mutual respect is there, nor reverence, nor gratitude. What perhaps has shocked me most was to discover, in the corner of one of these wards, a poor creature who had seen better days : to be startled when I Went up to speak to one whose features or countenance had attracted me, by being answered in the unmistakeable tone and language of the well-bred and the well-born: and this has happened to me, not once, but several times. I never can understand why some discrimination should not be shown, unless it be that not’ one of those employed is of a grade, mental or moral, to be entrusted with such a power of discrimination. It is thought that no distinction ought to be made, where the necessary condition of entrance — poverty — is common to all; that no more regard should be had in the workhouse to the causes and antecedents of poverty than in a prison to the causes and antecedents of crime. Then there is the rule, that this refuge for the poor man is to be made as distasteful to the poor man as possible. But cannot some means be used to exclude the undeserving? Why should this last home of the poor be not only distasteful but deteriorating?

In some workhouses many who can work will not, and there is no power to compel them. In others, the inmates are confined to such labour aa is degrading and disgraceful — the sort of labour which is a punishment in prisons, — which excites no faculty of attention, or hope, or sympathy,— which contemplates neither utility nor improvement, — such as picking oakum, &c.; and this has been laid down lest there should exist some kind of competition injurious to tradesmen. Now this is surely a cruel and short-sighted policy, equally unjust and injurious.

Besides the sick and the miserable, there are also to be found the vicious, the reckless, the utterly depraved ; and I could not discover that there is any system of gentle religious discipline which aimed at the reforming of the bad, or the separation of the bad from the good, except in one of our great metropolitan workhouses. The depraved women bring contamination with them ; the unwed mothers, who come to lie-in, go out laughing, with a promise to come again; and they do come again and again for the same purpose. The loudest tongues, the most violent tempers, the she-bullies as they are called, always are the best off; the gentler spirit sinks down, lies still, perhaps for six, or eight, or twelve years — I have seen such, — and so waits for death.

I must speak strongly on this point, because it is chiefly, in respect to the female inmates, that workhouses have been the fruitful seminaries of vice; and it is here that the supervision of superior women is most required. None of the so-called guardians of the poor take into consideration a truth, undeniable and sacred, that you cannot train a girl without calling out the family feeling. It ruins the nature of the creature to be brought up absolutely independent of all affections, reared under an impersonal parent, like chickens hatched by steam. The substitute for the lather is the manager; for the mother, the matron. No one cares for her, and she cares for no one. What wonder if she grows up selfish, cunning, lazy, reckless! I question some of these girls; — Such a one ” has been in the house ten or twelve or sixteen years,” or “all her life,” as it may be: — “Doesn’t know who her father was;” “Doesn’t remember her mother;” “Thinks she has a brother some where;” “Has heard of an aunt, but does not know where she lives;” “Has no friend or relation in the ‘house;’” ” Doesn’t know any one outside.” Is not this pitiful? What impulse of healthy, human, womanly nature can be awakened in these girls except through some gentle womanly influences, which alone could replace the family relationships ? And are these to be systematically shut out? “The girls are worse than the boys,” exclaim the wrathful guardians and despairing chaplains — “twenty times more unmanageable.” Of course they are; for in them the divine law of nature is more coarsely and cruelly violated.

The number of females committed from the workhouses to two London prisons was, in the year 1856, nearly 500. In 1857 the number had increased. The visiting justices, in their Report, express their opinion ” that if more attention were paid in workhouses to classification and other arrangements of a reformatory character, there would be much less necessity for sending so many of the inmates to prison ; and are strengthened in this belief from the fact of the very great difference in the numbers that are sent from some of the workhouses in comparison with others.” People cry out shame that our prisons should be better, more desirable, places than our workhouses : are we then to make our prisons worse, or our workhouses better?

The young women sent out of the reformatory prisons at Fulham, and at Golden Bridge, near Dublin, are capable of taking respectable places as servants; and they are over looked for two years after their removal by the ladies connected with the management of these prisons. The young women discharged from a workhouse (unconvicted of any crime) are often to an incredible degree corrupted, and generally ignorant and helpless in all practical things.* No one cares for them. No supervision of clergymen or ladies is exercised or authorised, as is the case with the prisoners. There in the strongest prejudice against taking them for servants. They form the class from which the hordes of wretched creatures who infest our streets are mainly supplied. After ‘ remaining out of the workhouse a few weeks, or a few months, they return, not so ignorant, but more positively vicious than they left. In one workhouse that I know of, out of 300 girls discharged when of an ago to cam their bread, two-thirds returned to be the wretched mothers of wretched infants, swelling the mass of destitute inmates, and adding to the parish expenses. It is astonishing that the poor-law guardians do not see that to encourage some moral and preventive influences within the walls of the workhouse must, in the long run, diminish the burthens on the ratepayers.

When it was said that in a certain workhouse the out door relief bestowed had been distributed to creatures penned up for hours in foul air, who had waited for the bread doled out with curses, and received with sullen unthankfulness, as if they had been dogs; the answer was that many of these unhappy beings had become, from their perverted instincts, their fierce natures, their base insolence, and servile cunning, little better than brutes; and that “it was complimenting them too highly to compare them to” dogs ? ” But what has made them so? It is the system of which I complain, which brings a vulgar and a brutal power to bear on vulgarity and brutality, the bad and defective organisation to bear on one bad and defective; so you increase and multiply, and excite as in a hot-bed all the material of evil, instead of neutralising it with good: and thus leavened you turn it out on society to contaminate all around. What has ground humanity out of them, but a system which ignores the force of the natural and domestic relations, and trusts to no influence but a mere machinery? A keeper of a prison once relating how his wife had at last reformed a notorious drunkard, who had been many times in prison, and was considered incorrigible, — “Ma’am,” said he, “she talked to him as a mother talks to a son; he got to dread her sair face more than a policeman or a sheriff.” This reminds me of the speech of the poor wounded soldier to one of the lady nurses at Kulali: “You are as good to me as a mother,” said he, looking up in her face, “and better than a mother, for all that I know! ” A great, tall, working man was pouring out some domestic story to a friend of mine, when, stopping short, he said, “I beg your pardon, ma’am, but I was just speaking out to you as if you were my sister! “Now it is just this motherly and sisterly influence which I want to see carried out into the social relations; and I am persuaded that something of the mother’s authority and the sister’s tenderness does sanctify every woman in the eyes of men where she is called upon and authorised to work out social good.

All the ladies who went to the Crimea bear uniform testimony to the excellent feeling of the poor men towards them. “Their submission and respect were quite filial, almost childlike,” said one of these ladies with emotion. These soldiers had probably no other idea of a lady than might be gained from a distant sight of their officers’ wives, in riding habits, figuring at a review. The effect therefore which genuine ladyhood, dignified, quiet, refined, compassionate, produced on their minds when brought into daily intimate relation with them, was that mingled admiration and reverence, which the good of each Bex ought to feel for the other, which the real lady will always inspire. These soldiers, we are told, could think and speak of nothing but “angels ” just descended to earth, and would not have been much more astonished had these “angels ” suddenly returned to Heaven through the roof or through the window. But the time will come when these things will excite as much love and reverence, and less astonishment. The same observations apply to the ministry of ladies in a workhouse.

I should say, from what I have seen, that it is in the men’s wards of the workhouses, and yet more especially those of the boys, that female supervision is required, and where lady visitors would do essential good. Will they venture there! or will they think it “very improper?”

I was lately in a workhouse ward containing twenty-two beds; twenty-one were filled with poor decrepit old women in the last stage of existence. The nurse was, as usual, a coarse old hag. In the twenty-second bed was a young person of better habits, who had been an invalid, but was not helpless ; she was there because she had no home to go to. There was no shelf or drawer near her bed to place anything in ; this was not allowed, lest spirits should be concealed: the book she was reading — anything she wished to keep for herself  — was deposited in her bed or under it: nothing was done for comfort, and very little for decency. The power of retiring for a little space from all these eyes and tongues was quite out of the question: and so it was every where. A poor, decent old woman, sinking into death, in a ward where there were twenty-five other inmates, wished to be read to; but there was no one to do this : she thought she would try to bribe one of the others to read to her, by the offer of “a hap’orth of snuff;” but even this would not do.

One informant writes to me:— “Our chaplain a few weeks ago preached drunk in the morning, and at evening service was too drunk to preach at all. The sullen look of the paupers who had been punished for drunkenness cannot be forgotten.” The chaplain was not dismissed, only obliged to send in his resignation ; and this took place in a workhouse where the governor is described as most excellent, and the matron most respectable ; it is the system therefore which is at fault. A lady-visitor in a workhouse writes to me that the first time she entered the ward of the dissolute women the language, manners, oaths, were so dreadful as to terrify her, though not unused to deal with the miserable and perverted: she asked was it safe? and was answered, ” Yes, for a lady.” After the first week or two they began to be more quiet, and to return her salutation in a civilised fashion, ” and now,” she adds, “they are always glad to see me.” This (written in 1859) reminds us of the state in which Mrs. Fry found the female convicts in Newgate, forty years ago: and the scene is not a prison, but a public “charity.” Have we made no farther progress?

The organisation of the Workhouse-visiting Society since 1857 has provided against the mistakes and abuses which might arise from the introduction of lady-visitors, and hitherto the experiment has worked well ; and, being now supported by the sanction of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, it has found favour with many who would have looked coldly on the proposal had it proceeded merely from the philanthropic impulses of a few benevolent ladies.

I may not farther dwell upon details at present; but I would ask whether such a state of things could exist if some share in the administration and supervision of work houses were in the hands of intelligent and refined women whose aid should be voluntary! Why should not our parish workhouses be so many training schools, where women might learn how to treat the sick and poor, and learn by experience something of the best means of administration and management?

I see that, in one of our large London parishes (in a workhouse which, a few months ago, was conspicuous for the most disgraceful mismanagement, and held up to public indignation,) a committee of lady-visitors has been allowed to look over the wards. This will do good in individual cases ; but what is wanted is a domestic, permanent, ever-present influence, not occasional inspection. It is, however, a step in the right direction. We must remember that lady-visitors, to do good, must be properly authorised and organised,— must work in concert, lest they contradict and interfere with each other. The bristling jealousy of sub-officials must be soothed; the scruples about interfering with established powers have to be surmounted by sense, and kindness, and decision ; there must be over all a supreme and harmonising power; or the whole arrangement will fall asunder like ill-fitting bricks without cement. Of the possible mischief that may be done by ignorant, over-zealous, self-confident, excitable women, I shudder to think; and of the use that may be made of such failures to injure a good cause: yet were the experiment to fail twenty times over ere it succeed, it would never shake my conviction that the principle I advocate must be carried out at last: that it is God’s law, by obedience to which we shall be saved : by neglect of which we perish.

I have not found. in my limited travels any institutions exactly similar to our workhouses, that is, charitable institutions supported by enforced contributions. There are, however, two institutions at Turin which struck me as very remarkable, and which may be said, each in its way, to fulfil some of the purposes for which our workhouses were originally instituted.

One of these is a community of women called Rosines, from the name of their founder, Rosa Governo, who had been a servant girl. It cannot be styled a religious com munity, in the usual sense, as neither vows nor seclusion are required : it is a working joint-stock company, with a strong interfusion of the religious element, without which I believe it could not have held together. Here I found, Wonderful to tell, nearly 400 women of all ages, from fifteen and upwards, living together in a very extensive, clean, airy building (or rather assemblage of buildings, for they had added one house to another), maintaining them selves by their united labour, and carrying on a variety of occupations, as tailoring, embroidery (especially the embroidery of military accoutrements for the army), weaving, spinning, shirt-making, lace-making — everything, in short, in which female ingenuity could be employed. They have a large, well-kept garden; a school for the poor children of the neighbourhood; an infirmary, including a ward for those whose age had exempted them from work; a capital dispensary, with a small medical library; here I found one of the women preparing some medicines, and another studying intently a French medical work.

This female community is much respected in Turin, and has flourished for more than a century. It is entirely self- supported, and the yearly revenue averages between 70,000 and 80,000 francs. The women are ruled by a superior, elected from among themselves, and in their Workrooms were divided into classes, or groups, each under direction of a monitress to keep order. The rules of admission and entrance and the interior regulations are strict. Any inmate may leave at once whenever she . pleases, but (as I understood) cannot be re-admitted. The costume, which is that worn by the lower classes in 1740, when the community was founded, is not becoming, but not very peculiar. All looked clean and cheerful.

I have been assured by some of my friends, who ought to understand these matters, that such an institution would be “quite impossible” in England, because the education given to the girls of the working class renders it “quite impossible” for a number of them to dwell together in unity, or in voluntary submission to a controlling power. If it be so, so much the worse! — but is it so ?

The other institution I have alluded to, is yet more extraordinary, and of recent origin. A few years ago a poor priest, who had served as chaplain in an hospital, being struck by the dreadful state of the convalescent women, who, after being dismissed as cured while yet too weak for labour, were obliged to have recourse to vice or to starve, fitted up a garret with four old half-rotten bedsteads, into which he received four wretched, sick, sinful creatures, and went round his parish begging for their support. Such was the beginning of the “Casa della divina Providenza” called also “La Casa Cotolengo,” from the name of its founder, who died only a few years ago.

When I visited this extraordinary place, I found that the garret and its four old bedsteads had gradually extended to many ranges of buildings, for different purposes. There is an hospital with 200 beds; another hospital especially for wretched, diseased women out of the streets, and another for children, containing fifty beds; a refuge for forsaken infants; a small school for deaf and dumb (children and others); a ward especially for epileptic patients and crétins. The attendance on this vast congregation of sick and suffering beings is voluntary, and considered by the physicians, nurses, and sisters as an act of religion. There were about 200 attendants, men and women. The number of inmates constantly varied, and no regular account was kept of them : one day it was calculated to be about 1300, patients and nurses all included. The deaths are about six daily. All who would be rejected from other hospitals, who have incurable, horrid, chronic diseases, who are in the last stage of helpless, hopeless misery, come here; none are ever turned away. There are no funds, and no accounts are kept; nor, I must confess, is there any of the order and neatness of a regular hospital. All the citizens of Turin, more especially the poorer class, contribute something; and so “one day telleth another.” “We trust to divine Providence, and have hitherto wanted for nothing,” was the reply to my inquiry. ” Sometimes our coffer is empty, sometimes it is full. If we are poor to-day, we shall be richer to-morrow. God helps us!

In England, a political economist or a poor-law com missioner would have been thrown into fits by such a spectacle of slovenly charity. Too true it is —

“Tho wise want love, and they who love want wisdom;
And all good things are thus confused to ill!”


Education and Training of Women for Social Employments.

And now, having shown what an extensive field there is for work, what are the qualifications required in the workers? It is plain that mere kindly impulses and self-confidence (so different from practical benevolence and tender, humble faith I) will not suffice. By what means are we to prepare and discipline our women for the work they may be called to perform? What has been done, what may be done, to render them fitting helpmates for energetic and benevolent men, and instruments of beneficent power? These are momentous questions, which we have now to consider.

The complaint has become threadbare; yet I must begin by noticing the mere fact as such. There is no adequate provision for the practical education of the middle and lower classes of girls in this country; and (which is much worse) the importance of this want is either over looked, or at least no one in power thinks it worth while to treat this part of educational statics with any particular attention. Open the books and pamphlets on national education, read the speeches of our legislators, the clever leading articles in our journals; everywhere it is the same. The education of boys for professional and practical life, the sort of instruction which is to fit them for such and such civil or military employments, are always discussed as of the highest importance ; and the provision already made is, we are assured, not nearly sufficient. What shall be said of the general tone of feeling and opinion with regard to the education of women ? Is it less important than that of men ? I will not go into the extreme opinions of those who argue that it is even more important, inasmuch as women being the mothers of the human race a very large portion of their mental and moral organisation must pass into that of their offspring. The saying of a wise philosopher and lawyer, “All our able men have had able mothers,” is, however, so generally true, that the few exceptions only prove the rule. Here I would merely suggest, that a sound practical education preparatory to the duties and business of real life is of as much importance to women as to men, and ought not to be treated as comparatively insignificant, as merely accidental or accessory to the education of the other sex. The tone of indifference assumed on this point, and the comparatively small means afforded, is a mistake for which we shall pay dearly.  It unites with other causes in lowering the standard of opinion in respect to women, besides being more directly injurious. I am acquainted with several of those ladies who had to select the hired nurses sent out to the East, and they could make terrible revelations on this subject. Out of the hundreds of women who offered themselves, it was scarcely possible to find a tenth of the number fit to be sent out ; and more than the half of that number disgraced themselves, or were found useless when there. The ignorance, the incompetency, the slowness of the unexercised reasoning powers ; the want of judgment and of thought which made it impossible for them to direct, the violent insubordinate tempers which made it impossible for them to obey, rendered them the plague of the authorities. Their degraded habits made them unfit to be trusted in the men’s hospitals. They were drunken as well as dissolute, and the lady nurses felt themselves disgraced as Englishwomen and Christians in the eyes of the stranger and unbeliever. This was the case with two-thirds of the hired nurses, and with almost all the soldiers’ wives, very few of whom I believe were found available for any useful purpose. These women had all been in schools of one sort or another — national schools, Sunday schools — and this was the result.

Now I will tell you, as an illustration, what I have seen only very lately. I was in a very large parish union, where there were about four hundred children, nearly an equal number of boys and girls; and schools for both. The boys had an excellent master for reading and writing, t and had masters besides, to teach them various trades. There was a tailor, a carpenter, a shoemaker, a hairdresser, a plumber, who, at wages from 25s. to 35s. a week, were employed to instruct the boys in their respective trades. The girls were taught reading, writing, and sewing ; some of them, under the pauper menials, helped to scour and scrub. The overtasked, anxious mistress seemed to do her best ; but there was not sufficient assistance. The whole system was defective and depressing, and could not by any possibility turn out efficient domestic servants, or well-disciplined, religious-minded, cheerful-tempered girls I was informed that, of the boys sent out of this work house, about 2 per cent, returned to the parish in want or unserviceable; while of the girls they reckoned that about 50 per cent, were returned to them ruined and depraved. Remember, I do not give you this as a picture of the general slate of things in workhouse schools, but merely as an illustration of the prevalent opinion as to the sort of instruction which is fitting and necessary for pauper boys,  compared with that which’ is thought sufficient for pauper girls, and the results in both cases.

The education given to many of our girls of the higher, even the highest classes, is fur better calculated to turn out efficient working women, than in those classes who I are supposed to be born to labour. I think that in a general way they are too well instructed in all they have to avoid, and too little instructed in all they have to do : still, where the tone of the mind is raised by an acquaintance with art and literature, where the intellect has been exercised from childhood, where temper has been, re strained, at least from habitual good manners, if not from higher motives ; we have something better to begin with than the low principles, vacant minds, animal propensities, and utterly undisciplined tempers of the girls who are intended for “service.” But I am glad to see that these evils are awakening every day more and more attention.

It is a serious objection to present modes of education in both sexes, that nothing is done with the important aim of enabling them to understand each other, and work together harmoniously and trustfully in after life. There seems, however, to exist among us an awakening and extending conviction that something of this is necessary, and that the complete separation of boys and girls in their early education, while yet children, is a great mistake, and a source of infinite unhappiness and immorality. They are not accustomed to each other, and when they are afterwards associated together in the labours of life, they have not been prepared for such communion by early childish habits of mutual dependence and mutual good will, such as the law of nature contemplated in domestic life, to which all education should as far as possible be assimilated. Thus, each sex being herded together in separate schools, the fault* of each are increased; and in the established system of teaching nothing is done to supply by principle the incongruities of feeling and habits, and ignorance of each other, produced and fostered by this dreadful mistake; so when called upon to act in communion, unless bound together by some external conventional law, there is mutual restraint, mutual mistrust, if not a positive shrinking asunder; and this is a great evil in itself, and the cause of unnumbered evils in its social effects.

But suppose the necessity of a better and more sympathetic education for all conceded, and suppose it even already provided for by more enlightened public opinion, there remain some special and plausible objections against the training of women ‘for active, and social, and responsible avocations, such as I have pointed out. Of these objections, which I have often had to listen to, three only appear to me worth a moment’s attention.

And first, you hear people say, quite sententiously, “I object to anything which takes a woman out of her home, and removes her from the sphere of domestic duty.” So do I object strongly to anything which takes a woman out of her proper sphere, out of a happy and congenial home, where her presence is delightful and her services necessary: there is her first duty. I object also to everything which takes away a man from his first duty, the protection and support of his home. Let us bear in mind that for every man who does not provide a home, there must exist a woman who must make or find a home for herself, somehow or somewhere. There seems to be no objection to taking the lower classes of women out of their homes to be domestic servants, milliners, shop- women, factory-girls, and the better educated to be governesses  or if there be objections, they are overborne by the pressure of an obvious necessity. Then why should the objection be urged, merely with respect to other employments, only because they are as yet rather unusual, or at least not yet recognised among us, but which are of a far more elevated kind?

Then there is much sentimental speech of women being educated to ” adorn a home,” to be “a good wife,” “a good mother.” But how many women are there who have no home, who arc neither wives nor mothers, nor ever will be while they live? Will you deny to them the power to carry into a wider sphere the duties of home — the wifely, motherly, sisterly instincts, which bind them to the other half of the human race? Must these be utterly crushed; or may they not be expanded and gratified healthily, innocently, usefully? This, surely, is at least worth considering, before we allow the force of an objection which seems to consist in phrases rather than in arguments.

A second objection, which I have heard chiefly from medical men, is, that the women of the educated classes, from which our volunteers are to be taken, are in general feeble, over-refined, and excitable, apt to take fancies to individuals where their aid and attention ought to be impartial and general, too self-confident for obedience, too sensitive to be trusted. That these objections apply to many women I have no doubt : that they apply to women generally, I deny. Medical men have much more experience of the invalided and feeble portion of the sex, than of the healthful portion. They know the fatal in fluence which some of our conventional customs, and an ill-understood physical education, have on the general health and development of girls. The sick fancies of idle, disappointed, desponding women give abundant occupation to clever physicians, who are satisfied to deal with the immediate physical causes of disease, without troubling themselves with the antecedent and remote moral causes; so it is very natural that they should have great pity for us, but not much respect. Few of them are sufficiently large-minded to perceive that the service of a better order of women in our public institutions, by giving employment to the unoccupied faculties and feelings, would be a means of improved health and cheerfulness not only in themselves but in others, and that if women were trained and prepared by a sufficient study and probation, they would be made efficient and practical.

I have heard medical men, who were in the Crimea, express their conviction that atrial of English lady volunteer nurses must end in total failure, and who at the same time were loud and emphatic in their admiration of the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity. The objection then, apparently, is not against women in general, but against English women in particular, brought up in the Protestant faith. Now, do they mean to say that there is anything in the Roman Catholic religion which produces these efficient women ? or that it is impossible to train any other women to perform . the same duties with the same calm and quiet efficiency, the same zeal and devotion? Really I do not see that feminine energy and efficiency belong to any one section of the great Christian community.

And now for the third objection; it is thus put :—

“Would you make charity a profession?

” Why not? why should not charity be a profession in our box, just so far (and no farther) as religion is a profession in yours ? If a man attires himself in a black surplice, ascends a pulpit, and publicly preaches religion, are we, therefore, to suppose that his religious profession is merely a profession, instead of a holy, heartfelt vocation? If a woman puts on a grey gown, and openly takes upon herself the blessed duty of caring for the sick, the poor, the perverted, are we therefore to suppose that charity is with her merely a profession? Here we have surely a distinction without a difference! No doubt we should all be religious, whether we assume the outward garb or no; no doubt we should all be charitable, whether in white, black, or grey ; but why should not charity assume functions publicly recognised — openly, yet quietly and modestly exercised ? Why is female influence always supposed to be secret, underhand, exercised in some way which is not to appear? — till even our good deeds borrow the piquancy of intrigue, and we are told practically to seek the shade, till morally we fear the light? Why can we not walk bravely, honestly, and serenely, yet simply and humbly, along the path we have chosen, or to which it hath pleased God to call us, instead of creeping about in a spirit of fear as if quite overcome  by the sense of our own wonderful merits, and obliged to throw over them a veil of conventional humility?

Our pretension to such avocations as I have mentioned may possibly be met by just the same arguments which fifty years ago were launched against “literary ladies; ” and if sneers at ” blue stockings ” and female pedants could have turned women from the cultivation of their minds, and crushed every manifestation of genius, no doubt it would have been done. Luckily, two admirable and gifted men, — Professor Playfair; with his’ profound science, and tender, generous feeling, and Sydney Smith, with all the force of his strong masculine sense, and all the splendour of his wit, — came to our rescue at a most critical period. The former claimed for us the department of science ; the latter, that of literature and independent thought.- This is twenty or thirty years ago. There are men now, equally manly and farsighted, eager to instruct us and. sustain us in well doing, eager to recognise in us fellow labourers by divine appointment, companions by the grace of God, without whom no step in social progress can be Attained, no lasting good achieved.

The commencement of a college for working women, the difficulties it has I’d to contend with, and its progress up to this time, are signal illustrations of the existence of the ” great want ” of which I have spoken, and the hopes and purposes which are filling thoughtful, active, beneficent minds. Shall I tell you what in this noble design has struck me with the deepest emotion, the deepest thankfulness? It is the interest with which men of the working class and professional men have received it. The former, when consulted, “spoke,” Mr. Maurice says, ” with remark able freedom and intelligence : we gathered a great many more hints and opinions than we had all expected.” There were differences of opinion in respect to arrangements and details, but “entire unanimity on the main question. There was no indication whatever of the slightest fear that females should know as much as they themselves knew, or more than they knew. There was a manifest wish that they should have the same advantages. There was a distinct and positive call upon us, not to withhold from the one what we were trying to give to the other.”

So far the intelligent working men. Even more fraught with encouragement and hope was the scries of Lectures on practical subjects, addressed to a female audience, to educated women who wished to know what it was best for them to learn before they were fitted to help and to teach. I was not present, being abroad at the time ; but, as I was informed, the audience collected was not so large as might have been expected. That was not surprising ; but what was surprising (and delightful too), there were found ready and willing to deliver these lectures to ladies ” on practical subjects,” eleven distinguished professional men; of these, six were clergymen, three physicians, and two lawyers. The six lectures delivered by clergymen dwelt of course chiefly on the duty of well-directed benevolence, in the hospital and in the workhouse, in parish supervision, and district visiting : all excellent in spirit and feeling. One,. on the “Teaching by Words” — capital, — as awakening the intellect to the uses and possible abuses of language, as a key to thought as well as an implement of thought. Perhaps, if women were taught the true value and significance of words, they would be the less likely to pour them forth on light occasions.

The three lectures by the medical men are all so excellent, that I felt lifted up in heart as I closed the volume. The two lectures on law (“Law as it affects the Poor,” and ” Sanitary Law”) are useful and clear, though technical.

It is not anywhere indicated in these lectures, that weak ness and ignorance are to be accounted as charms in women, . by which they are to recommend themselves to intelligent men; or that it is “unfeminine” to study the conditions of health; or that the desire to know something of those divine law*, “through which she lives, and moves, and has her being,” is the result of a ” depraved imagination ; ” or that the wish to prepare herself by experience to minister ‘ to disease and affliction is to be sneered at as a “taste for surgery.” (I beg of you to observe that I am here citing phrases which I have myself heard.) Another spirit animates the writers of these lectures.  Everywhere le important social work which rests on the woman is generally acknowledged and wisely inculcated. She is encouraged to think, and to carry out thought into action.

Working for Hire and Working for Love.

The training of a better order of women for hospital nurses is that department of social usefulness which is more immediately before the public, and it involves other considerations besides those I have touched upon.

There is no question I have heard more warmly contested, than the question of paid or unpaid female official. I think there should be both. We should have them of two classes ; those who receive direct pay, and those who do not. Consider the qualifications required. There must be force of character of no common kind ; the humility which can obey, and the intelligence which can rule; great enthusiasm, great self-command, great benevolence ; quick ness of perception with quietness of temper ; the power of dealing with the minds of others, and a surrender of the whole being to the love and service of God : without the religious spirit we can do nothing. Now, can we hope to obtain these qualifications for any pay which our jails, workhouses, or hospitals could afford! — or indeed for any pay whatever? Yet it is precisely an order of women, quite beyond the reach of any remuneration that could be afforded, which is so imperatively required in our institutions.

The idea of service without pay seems quite shocking to some minds, quite unintelligible; they quote sententiously,  “The labourer is worthy of his hire.” True; but what shall be that hire? Must it necessarily be in coin of the realm ? There are many women of small independent means, who would gladly serve their fellow-creatures, requiring nothing but the freedom and the means so to devote themselves. There are women who would prefer ” laying up for themselves treasures in heaven,” to coining their souls into pounds, shillings, and pence on earth; who, having nothing, ask nothing but a subsistence secured to them ; and for this are willing to give the best that is in them, and work out their lives while strength is given them. I believe that such service is especially blessed. I believe that such service does not weary, is more gracious and long-suffering than any other, blessing those who give and those who receive. I believe it has a potency for good that no hired service can have.

The idea in this country that everything has a money value, to be calculated to a farthing, according to the state of the market, is so ingrained into us, that the softest sympathies and highest duties, and dearest privileges of Chris tians, are never supposed to be attainable unless sold and paid for by the week, or month, or year. This is so much the case, that those who visit the poor people can hardly banish from their minds the conviction that there is soma interested motive, some concealed, selfish object in doing so. Yet if once brought to believe that there is really only the wish for their good, how beautiful and how blessed becomes the intercourse! The two meanest forms of sensuality and selfishness in our lower classes, the love of money and the love of drink, are best combated by the combined religious and feminine influence. A strong barrier to this vulgar greediness would be produced, I think, by the presence and employment of women officially authorised, yet not hired, and doing their duty from pure love of God and man? It would give a more elevated standard to many minds, to be brought into relation with such women.

I find the admixture of voluntary and unpaid labour  with hired labour, thus advocated in an excellent article in the “Quarterly Review” for Sept. 1855. “Many there doubtless are, who, without neglecting duty, may engage in this office of charity, and thus shun the dangers of the world they dread, or find a refuge from the hardness of a world which has lost its power to please though not to wound them ; and thus far at least is clear, that whether they sacrifice its pleasures, or seek a shelter from its vexations, their presence at the sick-bed will diffuse the zeal of love and the charm of refinement over an office which has hitherto, at the best, been executed with the cold regularity of routine.”

But to render the hired labour efficient and reliable, it must be placed at the disposal of the voluntary and unpaid labour, and be in all respects subordinate; as is the case in King’s College Hospital. The want of this regulation produced some mischief in the Crimea, which I shall have to revert to further on.

Then, as to whether the women who devote themselves to these services should or should not be associated into a community, is a question hotly debated, to be settled I think by the individual vocation.

One says, “I cannot work with other people; I must go on in my own way.” Well, let her go on in her own way, let her go on working single-handed as is good in her own eyes ; and God forbid that I should undervalue the good done simply and religiously by some excellent women I know working in their own way!But another says, ” I feel the need of a bond of sympathy ; it strengthens and sustains me. I should like to have my work cut out and appointed for me, and to labour in association both with men and women.” And this is well also. There is room, there is work, for both. I think a community might be formed on a broader principle than that which is contemplated, I believe, by the council of the Nightingale fund, for the mere preparation of hospital nurses ; but am too well aware of the difficulties from within and without not to hail a beginning, though it fall far short of that which is required: only we must keep our eyes fixed on the larger views.

Where the objects are of great importance, and have to do with our own deepest, innermost life, it requires an especial training of the mind and habits to preserve, in the subjection of the individual will, all the freshness and energy of the mental powers. To resign the highest privileges of individual action, and yet preserve the highest privileges of the individual conscience, this may be difficult, but it has been proved not to be impossible. But, I repeat, the individual inclinations and gifts must settle this.

Religious Difficulties.

I am sure that my Roman Catholic friends are sincere in their belief that such a community can take root and succeed only in their Church. At all events, it is the interest of the Roman Catholic priesthood to persuade us that the power of working a public charitable institution by a due admixture of the religious and feminine element with the masculine directing will, belongs to them only. This is very natural on their part, and wise, and quite intelligible ; but is it wise of our most influential clergymen to play into their hands, to act and preach as if this plea were true? As if this privilege of the woman to pervade our human institutions with a more tender and more moral power, to work openly with a species of religious sanction, like the Deaconesses of the primitive Christian Church, were really and inseparably interwoven with the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, so that we cannot have Sisters of Charity without accepting also an infallible pope, transubstantiation, the immaculate conception, and Heaven knows what be sides, the terror and abomination of our evangelicals? Surely it is an injury to the cause of religious freedom and human progress, an insult to their own peculiar form of faith, for any sect to acknowledge that what they allow to be good and desirable, and even necessary in itself, is in extricable from what they believe to be fake and ensnaring. These views are every day driving distinguished, and gifted, and enthusiastic women, into the pale of that Church, which stretches out its arms, and says, “Come unto me, ye who are troubled, ye who are idle, and I will give you rest and work, and, with these, sympathy, and reverence, the religious sanction, direction, and control!” Can we find nothing of all this for our women? Why should they thus go out from among us ? I, for my part, do not understand it.

In England it is not the form of Christianity we profess which is against such an organisation of feminine aid in good works as I would advocate; — God forbid! Yet some of our greatest difficulties may be ascribed to the deep- rooted puritanical prejudices bequeathed to us by our ancestors. It is worth considering that the first effect of the Calvinistic reaction against the dominant Church, and against the errors, and exaggerations, and gross materialism which had been connected with the worship of the Virgin Mother, was not favourable to women. In the earlier times of the Christian Church, whenever certain women distinguished themselves by particular sanctity or charity, or exercised any especial moral or intellectual influence, the Church absorbed them, claimed them, held them up to reverence during life and canonised them after death; and still their beautiful images shine upon us from our cathedral windows, or stand out in sculptured forms in all the. dignity of their hallowed office and venerable religious attributes. But after these fair superstitions had been abrogated by the severity of the early reformers, and were succeeded by the strongest prejudice against women exercising any kind of open and authorised religious or spiritual influence, still there were women who did exercise such influence — the natural power of strong intellect, or strong enthusiasm. The superiority could not be denied; but as it could no longer be referred to a larger measure of heavenly gifts, it must be derived from demoniac power. Men had repudiated angels and saints, but they still devoutly believed in devils and witches. The benign miracles of female charity were- the inventions and impositions of a lying priesthood ; but woe unto him who doubted in the power of an old woman to ride on a broomstick, or of a young woman to entertain Satan as her emissary in mischief! All the women who perished by judicial condemnation for heresy in the days of the inquisition did not equal the number of women condemned judicially as witches — hanged, tortured, burned, drowned like mad dogs — in the first century of the Reformed Church; and these horrors were enacted in the most civilised countries in Europe, by grave magistrates and ecclesiastics, who were proud of having thrown off the Roman yoke, and of reading their Bibles, where apparently they found as many texts in favour of burning witches as ever did the Inquisitors in favour of burning heretics. It was characteristic of the two diverging superstitions, that in the former age Dante conceived his Beatrice as the type of loving, wise, and spiritual womanhood, leading her lover into Paradise  while Milton’s type of female attraction was Eve, the temp tress to sin and death. The time is come, let us hope, when men have found out what we may truly be to them, not worshipping us as saints, or apostrophising us as angels, or persecuting us as witches, or crushing us as slaves; revering us for that power we are allowed to possess, not ! ‘ jealous of it, nor throwing it into some indirect or unhealthy form ; profiting by our tenderness, not oppressing us be cause of it; taking us to themselves as helpers in all social good, not leaving our undirected energies to wear away our own lives, and sometime trouble theirs.

It is better than a dozen sermons on toleration, to count I J up the women who, during this half-century, have left the strongest and most durable impress on society — on the minds and the hearts of their generation. First, there is Mrs. Fry, the Quakeress, to whom we owe the cleansing of our prisons, and in part the reform of our criminal code; Caroline Chisholm, the Roman Catholic, with her strong common sense, her decision and independence of character, who may be said to have reformed the system of emigration ; Mary Carpenter, the Dissenter, who has become an authority in all that concerns the treatment of juvenile delinquents; and Florence Nightingale, who in our time has opened a new path for female charity and female energy, is understood to belong to the Anglican church. And let us remember that there is not one of these four admirable women who has not been assailed in turn by the bitterest animosity, by the most vulgar, so-called religious abuse from those who differed from them in their religious tenets, or from those who contemned them and would have put them down merely as women ; not one of them who has ‘ not outlived prejudice and jealousy ; not one of them who could have carried out their large and beneficent views without the aid of generous and enlightened men, — men who had the nobleness of mind to accept them as fellow- workers in the cause of humanity, to admit them on equal terms into the communion of labour and the communion of charity.

When I was abroad last year, I was led to make inquiries into that system of training which had been found so successful in turning out efficient, healthful, cheerful, kindly women. I found that it varied in the different communities, according to the different rules and objects of each but in general these are the principal things attended to.

In the first place, none are accepted, even as probationers, who are of a sickly or weak organisation.

Every one who is accepted brings a small sum of money in her hand, at least 500 francs, that is, from about thirty to forty pounds. It is argued, that if a woman be at all respectable, and not driven to take up a religious and charitable vocation from mere want, she must have friends, or find friends, to subscribe for her this small dowry. In the Order of Charity of Vincent de Paul, none are accepted who have filled any servile office whatever, even that of a femme-de-chambre. On my exclaiming against this rule, as frequently shutting out women already to a certain degree efficient and experienced, my informant answered, ” Yes, but it has been found by experience that those who have been accustomed to sell their services for a certain hire, become so imbued by this habit, or notion, or feeling, that it is impossible to trust them, or to place confidence in the higher principle which may appear to have actuated them.” “No doubt,” she added, ” there may be exceptions, honourable exceptions; but we are obliged to adhere to a general rule, the wisdom of which has been justified by two centuries of experience.” After a probation of six months, none are retained in the society whose vocation Appears weak or uncertain, or who shrink from the duties imposed upon them as painful or difficult. Everywhere I observed that exceeding care is taken to adapt the especial work to the individual nature : a woman, for instance, who excels in care and sympathy for children, does not always make a “good sick-nurse ; and some women who do not nurse their own sex well, are, found admirably efficient and patient in the men’s wards, and in the military hospitals. Some have a talent for managing the insane, and are in structed accordingly. Some who have a particularly tender, enthusiastic, and cheerful temperament, are found excellent attendants for the very aged and incurably infirm. Thus they do not clash among themselves, nor does each fancy herself fitted for something different from what she is set to do. This discernment in the selection of fit instruments, this careful adaptation of the work to the natural tendencies, this apportioning of the labour, to the mental and physical strength, is, I am sure, one cause of that cheerful ness and harmony of spirit, that serene and healthy look, which we observe in these Sisters of Charity, and which reacts in so remarkable a manner on the minds and the nerves of those to whom they minister. I should add, that those who “manage the dispensaries receive a regular medical training, under an experienced apothecary.

In the Crimea, when many of our volunteer ladies were ill or “knocked up,” and obliged to return home ; when the hired nurses were either ill or useless through their ignorance, disobedience, or immorality, and dismissed in dis grace, the well-trained Sisters of Charity or of Mercy held on with unflagging spirit and energy, never surprised, never put out, ready in resource, meeting all difficulties with a cheerful spirit ; a superiority which they owed to their previous training and experience, not certainly to any want of zeal, benevolence, or intelligence in their Protestant sisters of the better class.

I suppose it is well known that they are never paid wages, but a certain sum is paid by the hospital, or prison, or the family who employ them, to the house or community they belong to. The lowest sum is about 12l. a year, and they are besides provided with food and clothing. Those Sisters who have a high reputation for skill and experience are rated at a higher sum ; and though they do not personally derive any profit from it, they have, I am told, a just pride in the higher value placed on their services.

How far these rules and regulations may be found applicable among ourselves, must be a matter of consideration and experiment. I am inclined to think that many of them might be adopted, if once those unreal spectral difficulties which strike terror into superstitious minds could be surmounted.

For instance, in matters of dress we are in this country too apt to consider the adoption of any particular costume as popish and fantastical; that is to say, we admit the despotism of fashion, we rebel against the suggestion of reason. We profess a boundless submission to the French milliners, wear modes of dress against which good taste, convenience, even our purses and our sense of propriety revolt; meantime if a dress be contrived to meet the requirements and proprieties of a certain vocation, unobtrusive, close-fitting, commodious, seemly, we rebel against it, we repudiate any interference with our individual liberty, individual caprice, and individual bad taste. We forget that dress has its morale, that if it be capable of affecting the imagination through the senses in a drawing-room, it will have the same power in a sick-room, and that it ought not to be left in the power of ignorance, or vulgarity, or thoughtlessness, to do through trifling means a real mischief.

Lately, in walking through the sick wards of a workhouse, I spoke to two hired nurses, who had been sent from our great hospitals to superintend and train the pauper nurses (a recent innovation, by the way, and one of excel lent promise). One of these women wore a washed-out chintz gown of gay colours, a dirty pink ribbon with a gilt gaudy brooch about her neck; and on her head a very dirty cap, with dangling white beads. The other woman was, in similar attire, except that her very dirty cap was . decorated with faded dirty artificial flowers. In both cases the attire had all the appearance of having come out of a second-hand frippery shop ; in both cases the desire was the same, to be distinguished from the pauper nurses, who wore the always odious workhouse dress: therefore,, these respectable women flaunted in the habiliments of a street walker. If a physician came to prescribe for our sick or dying friend in the dress of a fast Oxonian dandy, or a sporting flash man, should we approve of it ? Yet here is the same direct violation of decency and good feeling. It is quite as great a mistake, though one of a different kind, when a lady, by position and education, visits in a work house or a district, dressed like a poor woman of the lowest class. It is done, I know, in some cases, from a feeling of humility ; but the poor, who are very sensitive to dress, ‘ manners, language, and appearance, like this assumption of humility as little as they like pride and insolence: neither is a gay, fashionable dress more suitable, and the religious ” habit ” is, in Protestant eyes, displeasing. There is a “fitness in things ” which suggests itself to good sense and good taste, and which those who do not intuitively appreciate, should be taught.

The genuine horror of a community of women associated for religious and charitable purposes entertained by some most excellent people, who are accustomed to sec things only on one side and from one side, is hardly conceivable by those who have looked into the working of such com munities; for instance, I find in a very charming little book the following passage of elegant objurgation: —

“Look out,” says the writer, “a clever, enthusiastic woman, with a strong will of her own, and no stronger will to control it ; make her the Lady Superior of a sisterhood, without any man to come, with a weight of years, authority, and holiness, to say to her, this must not be — that would be very silly, or unreasonable, or improper, and I positively forbid it:— do this and you will do tie devil’s work in frustrating a means of good as effectually as himself could do. ‘You will get sisterhoods in all the slavish misery of nuns, and with none of the protection of convents, — a pack of unhappy women, forbidden to exercise common sense, and rendered morbid, sensitive, and undevout by the system which the uncontrolled power of the Lady Superior exercises over them; and not rarely you will have the Lady Superior go crazy, because of the unlimited indulgence of her talent for government.”

Of course, if you do this, if you build with bad materials, your edifice will be crazy. But why take it for granted that your material is to be bad, or that the devil is of necessity to interfere? Now, over against this gratuitous picture of a sisterhood, let us place another of a brotherhood by way of pendant. Take a house intended by Christians to be an asylum for the poor; fill it with some hundreds of the ruined, the reckless, the depraved ; the aged, the help less, the homeless : with wailing infants, with unwed mothers, and all the infinite grades of sin and suffering. Bring this mass of human agonies together; cram them close in horrid propinquity, in filth, and fetid air — the evil to deprave the good, the better-educated where curses and the foulest language pollute their cars; place this institution — this Christian, charitable institution — under the government of a set of men, armed with a grim authority, called, as if in mockery, “guardians of the poor;” let there be no woman near them, to whisper “this is wrong,” or “that is cruel and unreasonable, and in the name of a God of mercy I forbid it;” let there be no cheerful, genial influence there, no gentle voice nor light tread, but drunken viragos to nurse the sick, and insolent officials to feed the hungry : do this, and you will have something as near as possible to what we can conceive of an earthly Hell — you will have an ill-managed Parish Workhouse.

But why picture as necessary and inevitable, extremes .which we may hope are only accidental? Why imagine a “pack of women” on one hand, and a “pack of men” on the other? Suppose we were to try what might be the effect of neutralising the mobility, sensibility, and excitability of the women by the firmness and judgment of the men? Would not that be better?

I must now conclude with a few last words.

We cannot look around us without seeing that a demand has not only been created, but becomes every day increasingly urgent, for a supply of working women at once more efficient and more effective. I use the words advisedly as distinct in meaning : women and men too are efficient through energy and experience, and effective through higher gifts and sympathies — higher aims and motives: materially efficient, morally effective. Meantime, with no want of ‘zeal or aptitude, there is such a lamentable deficiency in training, in knowledge, in the means or opportunity of acquiring either, that I should despair — if I were not too old to despair — if I had not so often counted up the price we have to pay for truth, and the penance we must pay for falsehood too. If, among the hapless women I see struggling to bring their external existence into harmony with their inner life, — or, what is harder still, to bring their inner life into subjection to harsh and deteriorating circumstance — one half should go distracted, and the other half turn Roman Catholics, I might “even die with pity;” but certainly not yield up one inch of the ground I have taken, nor one iota of the faith that is in me.

I remember that, when speaking on these subjects to a very benevolent and accomplished man, a clergyman, he said thoughtfully, “I have little doubt that you are right: and yet if there be such a divine law involving all human well-being and progress in its recognition, — how is it that it has not been more distinctly revealed to us ? how is it that it comes to us now like a novelty to be subjected to the examination of the sceptical and the carping of the foolish?”

We know that there has existed from the commencement of the creation a law of God, binding the whole universe into one harmonious whole, guiding the planets in their orbits, connecting our own world with far-off worlds of light and life, and at the same time so regulating our least movements on this earth, that we cannot put one foot before the other, but in subjection to it. Yet of the existence of this law we knew nothing, till, one hundred and fifty years ago, the fall of an apple revealed it to Newton : and to what revelations most important to our well-being has it not since led! And may there not be a law of moral and physical life as universal, as essential, as eternal, which in its agency has always been felt, and yet, in its relation to happiness and progress, is only just beginning to be understood, and not yet fully applied? I do not say it is so; but may it not possibly be so?

In general there is among men — superior men — a strong, generous sympathy with the cause I advocate. How noble and good I have found them! how raised in their manly power above all vulgar masculine jealousies! Yet some among them, some practical men so called, who start at shadows — some members of parliament who weigh truth and expediency against each other in their political balance — some clergymen, bending down from the height of their white neckcloths, half-sympathising, half-patronising, — these say to me, ” We really cannot deal with abstract principles, we must work with such material as we have at hand. What is your plan? If we knew what plan you have formed we might help you. What do you propose to do?”

I must confess I have no plan ready prepared, and ho exquisitely contrived to avoid offence that, like a mill- wheel with all the cogs shaved off that it may work smoothly, it will impart no movement, and do neither good nor harm. But if there be vitality in the principle I have placed before you — the communion of love and of labour — then that which springs out of it will be vital too, not working like a machine, but bearing fruit like the tree. 

And “what would I do?” they ask. Nothing more can I do indeed, but that which I am now doing, or rather trying to do, with such small power as God has given me. I would place before you, this once more, ere I turn to other duties, that most indispensable yet hardly acknowledged truth, that at the core of all social reformation, as a necessary condition of health and permanency in all human institutions, lies the working of the man and the woman together, in mutual trust, love, and reverence.

I would impress it now for the last time on the hearts and the consciences of those who hear me, that there is an essential, eternal law of life, affirmed and developed by the teaching of Christ, which if you do not take into account, your fine social machinery, however ingeniously and plausibly contrived, will at last fall into corruption and ruin. “Wherever men and women do not work together helpfully and harmoniously, and in accordance with the domestic relations — wherever there is not THE COMMUNION OF LOVE AND THE COMMUNION OF LABOUR — there must necessarily enter the elements of discord and decay. If men bring their conventionalities and practicalities into conflict with the natural law of God’s divine appointment, we know which must in the end succumb. Meantime I would, if possible, assist in diminishing the duration and the pain of that conflict. If anything I have now spoken carry conviction into the kind hearts around me, help those who can and will, — and God help us all!



Source: Sisters of Charity; And, The Communion of Labour, Two Lectures on the Social Employments of Women. A New Edition Enlarged and Improved with a Prefatory Letter to the Right Hon. Lord John Russell, President of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, on the Present Condition and Requirements of the Women of England (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1859), pp. 67-148.