Woman's Prayer was Answered
Of institutions for the training of women in Christian work and philanthropy there is none more widely known than that of Mildmay. It has now two hundred and twenty workers engaged in its various departments, including deaconesses, nurses, probationers, and students in training for foreign work.
It was one of the earliest institutions in this country, if not the first, to revive in modern times the ancient office of deaconess. This had been done by Pastor and Madame Fliedner at Kaiserswerth, on the Rhine, the Alma Mater of Florence Nightingale, and it was on a visit to Kaiserswerth that the Rev. \V. Pennefather and his wife received inspiration for founding the Mildmay Mission.
This mission was started in 1860, when Mr. Pennefather was vicar of Christ Church, Barnet. Both he and his wife were deeply interested in foreign missions, and their first venture was a missionary training home for women. This formed the nucleus of Mildmay.
The scheme was greatly developed when Mr. Pennefather removed to St. Jude's, Mildmay Park, in 1864. The training of women for parochial work was now begun. The name of deaconess was adopted for these workers, and in time the training home was changed to Deaconess House.
The period of the foundation of the mission was one of great awakening on the part of educated women to the Christian Church's need for their service in the more public spheres of philanthropy. From her invalid's room the heroine of the Crimea was calling to the leisured women of her day to be up and doing. One of Florence Nightingale's earliest essays was a plea for the revival of the office of deaconess.
Mr. and Mrs. Pennefather chose this name for their workers after prayerful consideration. It was novel, but it was apostolic. The devotion of the founders to the mission is known throughout Christendom. Mr. Pennefather made Mildmay the centre for Evangelical Church conferences, which have now been held annually for fifty-one years; and Mrs. Pennefather organised the women's work and started clubs and meetings for poor people. Both have passed to their rest, and memorials to their noble work exist in recent additions to the institution.
The headquarters of the mission are at Mildmay Park. The buildings which compose the Mildmay compound are grouped around a central garden. Captain F. L. Tottenham, the superintendent of the mission, has a house in the compound, and is assisted by Mrs. Tottenham as the directress of women's work.
The Conference Hall is a handsome building, erected in 1869; and the conferences held there each June attract Christian workers from all parts of the kingdom and from abroad. Throughout the year it is used for services, meetings, and Bible-classes connected with the mission.
Below the hall are rooms which serve as storehouses for the garments sent to Mild-may for distribution amongst the poor. In one room a weekly sewing-class is held for poor widows. They have hot coffee and buns, cheerful and kind people to talk to them, and receive sixpence for their work. The garments are well made and cut out, and the mission is glad to receive orders.
The Deaconess House adjoins the Conference Hall, and has about forty deaconesses in residence. Miss Hankin is deaconess-in-charge. The house is bright and pleasant, with a large room, No. 6, for devotional services and various meetings, and a very spacious drawing-room arranged with writing-tables and lounges. Each deaconess has her own room or cubicle. The rules of the house are very simple. No vows are taken, but it is expected that love and devotion will keep the residents at their appointed tasks. Ladies are expected, if it is in their power, to pay £50 per year for board. Many who cannot do this are accepted according to their circumstances. Some receive a small allowance for personal expenses.
The Mildmay deaconesses work under the clergy in fifteen London parishes. They are engaged in devotional exercises at home, and in house-to-house visitation in the very poorest districts. They pay between forty and fifty visits a week. Each deaconess, as a rule, has charge of a mothers' meeting in her district, and gives the address herself.
l. This valuable institution was erected to the memory of the Rev. W. Pennefather, founder of the mission, by friends and co-workers, and also by Lady Hay, in memory of her son auspices of the vicars of the different parishes. They also bring forward candidates for confirmation, and hold Bible-classes for both men and women.
Besides parochial work carried on from the central house, some of the deaconesses are employed in the various institutions and homes belonging to the community. Others work further afield-in Malta and Tun-bridge Wells; at the Prison Gate Mission, Dublin; the House of Refuge, Oxford; and the Deaconess House at Kingston, Jamaica. One Mildmay deaconess is in charge of the Diocesan Deaconess and Missionary Training House, Toronto, Canada: and another has charge of the Church Ladies' House, founded by the Bishop of Liverpool.
(1) The Old and New Testament, Christian doctrine, history and contents of the Prayer Book, outlines of early Church history, outlines of Christian evidence.