Many women, who fully recognise the importance of training, however, find themselves confronted with a serious difficulty in meeting the necessary expense. They are often of the class who would be most successful in the higher branches of women's work, being the daughters of small professional men, and others of limited means who have expended all their available resources in giving their children a sound general education, but who are unable to assist them further.
Help for the Educated Woman
This need has to some extent been met, as there are now several funds administered by the various societies for promoting the employment of gentlewomen, which have been established for the purpose of providing loans to women of ability and energy, to enable them to pursue professional or technical training.
Grants are, of course, only made to applicants who are likely to be successful, and the committee naturally have to exercise considerable care in selecting the candidates. This is equally in the interests of the applicant and the society, as it is no use for a girl wasting her time and incurring the responsibility of a loan in trying to learn a profession for which she is unsuited.
The pioneer of this work was the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women, 23, Berners Street, Oxford Street, W.
There are four funds entirely under the control of this society, and a fifth the administration of which it shares with two other bodies.
There are the Pfeiffer Fund, the Caroline Ashurst Biggs Memorial Fund, the Helen Blackburn Fund, and the Louisa. Lady Goldsmid Fund. The Mrs. Haweis Fund is jointly administered by this society, the Central Bureau for the Employment of Women, and the Women's Institute.
During the present year (1911), loans amounting to over- .£600 have been granted by the society to forty-eight applicants for training in various professions, such as - to name a few - pharmacy, midwifery and massage, children's nurse, teaching in high and secondary schools and in elementary schools, teaching the deaf and dumb, domestic economy, cookery, etc.
There is, in fact, hardly any occupation or profession open to educated women for training in which the society has not at some time granted assistance, and among those not already mentioned are medicine, sick nursing, secretarial work, shorthand, typing, book-keeping, photography, plan tracing, fashion plate drawing, horticulture, dressmaking and millinery, hairdressing, colonial training - and these form only a small part of the full lists.
The amount of the loan granted to any one applicant is limited to £30, as the committee do not think it wise that the worker should be too heavily handicapped with the burden of repayment when beginning her career.
The conditions are that the successful applicant shall sign an agreement to complete her training, and that after finishing her course she shall repay the loan, without interest, by instalments of 3s. out of every £1 which she earns.
If she is under the age of twenty-one, her father must sign the agreement; and, in any case, there must be an independent guarantor, who will be responsible for carrying out the engagement. If she should die, however, the debt is cancelled.
It is satisfactory to learn that in almost every case the society's grantees have been faithful to their undertaking, and though occasionally repayment has been delayed over a considerable period, owing to difficulty in obtaining work, it is very rare indeed for a loan to be lost altogether.
The society sometimes hears from its protegees long after the loan has been repaid, and is thus enabled to see the great value of the service rendered, as many of these, who but for its aid would have been stopped at the outset of their career, are holding very good positions. One lady is now resident medical officer in a mission hospital in China, while another holds a similar post in a hospital for women and children at home.
Very many are teachers, not only of general educational subjects, but of science, domestic economy, physical culture, etc. One is manageress of a large City office, and another holds a responsible position in a bank, and has several clerks under her.
A great number are clerks and book-keepers, and there are nurses, health visitors, children's nurses, and others engaged in various occupations, who have all written saying what an inestimable boon the help given has been to them.
Besides this society there are several others which grant loans for training under similar conditions. Foremost among these is the Central Bureau for the Employment of Women, 5, Princes Street, Cavendish Square, which of late years has greatly developed this side of its work. Nor are its activities confined to London, as it has branches in Liverpool, Dublin, and Edinburgh.
Although grants are usually made for fees only, the committee has the power to do so for any purpose of which it may approve, and which is incidental to the training.
In addition to these funds, there is what is known as the Educated Women Workers Loan Training Fund, the offices of which are at St. Stephen's Chambers, Telegraph Street, E.c.
A noble work has also been done for many years by the Trust Fund of "The Girls' Realm " Guild of Service and Good Fellowship. This differs in one notable point from the other societies mentioned - its grants are gifts, not loans, and vary from small sums up to as much as £80.
It will be seen, therefore, that, provided a girl has the necessary qualities for success, mere lack of means need be no bar to her taking up any profession or occupation which is nowadays open to women. Of course, one may have to wait for a time, as these societies necessarily receive many applications; but if a girl is wise, she will spare no effort in order to secure for herself adequate training. She must be prepared to sacrifice her prospect of immediate earnings, even though a good post is offered to her, as nothing can compensate her for entering on a career in which she has the whole world of untrained workers as her competitors.