Mo more valuable form of assistance can be given than that which a well-managed parish maternity club affords.
The outlay is not great, and small subscriptions keep it in full working order. Little official correspondence is required, only a secretary and a good keeper or deputy supply the staff; yet incalculable comfort is given at a time when there is most urgent need, and the doctors, vicar, and district visitors find such a club of very great benefit not only to the woman, but also in strengthening their hands in other work, because of the practical sympathy extended.
It is inevitable that money must first be procured. The vicar's wife, one of the district visitors, or some other influential lady in the parish, should ask her friends by letter, or visits, to lend a hand or to open their purse strings for the good object of procuring some sets of useful articles which can be lent to poor women during the four weeks of their confinement. It is best to ask for yearly subscriptions and also for a special sum to pay for the initial outlay. The yearly subscriptions help to provide the groceries or the 2s. 6d. or 5s. which most maternity societies give when they send the bag. The money also helps to keep up the supply of blankets and garments included in each bag. Mending and renewals are not, of course, required during the first year, but naturally these become necessary later on when things get worn.
When subscriptions come in, the materials should be purchased at some good shop where, if the nature of the work be explained, a good discount will probably be given. For this reason all the materials should, if possible, be bought at one shop.
Working afternoons should then be held, when the garments can be well and strongly made and marked, the shawls knitted or crocheted, cashmere or flannel squares hemmed, and the blankets marked.
1 pair of calico sheets.
2 calico nightdresses for the mother.
2 longcloth nightdresses for the baby.
2 long flannels for the baby.
2 vests, knitted.
1 warm shawl, knitted or crocheted.
1 flannel square.
1 bag to send or keep things in.
A woman wishing to benefit by the work of the society must save or collect 5s. This money she must give to her district visitor, who takes it to the secretary of the society, and gets in exchange an order, worded thus: " Please give to Mrs. Jones a bag for use during one month (or groceries, if preferred, to the amount of 5s., or 2s. 6d., according to the funds of the society), and 5s. when required." This order can be placed weeks or months before the birth of the baby. But the bag is not sent until a messenger comes for it, when the birth is imminent. This point is important, for many more bags would be required if they were sent beforehand.
In a smoothly working society, £1 a year is paid to a responsible woman living in a cottage in the heart of the poor neighbourhood where most of the women live. For this she hands over the bag to a messenger, keeps account of the date when it should be returned, and sees that everything is clean and in good condition when returned.
If the baby is born prematurely, or does not live, some slight reduction in the money bonus or present in kind is sometimes made.