The Objects of the Institution - Its Activities-its Annuitants, and How to Secure an Annuity-those who are Benefited by the Institution-how to Help the Work
"To many, if not most, of the women who are obliged to earn a livelihood as governesses the prospect of an unprovided-for old age is an ever-present nightmare. The Governesses' Benevolent Institution, which has been in existence for some sixty years, was founded for the purpose of giving relief to ladies in this position. The Institution, which has its headquarters at 32, Sackville Street, W., has as its president the Earl of Aberdeen, and is under the patronage of their Majesties the King and Queen. In the Charter of Incorporation, granted in 1848, the aims of the Institution are set forth as:
1. The relief of governesses in temporary difficulty.
2. The granting of annuities to aged governesses.
3. The securing of deferred annuities to governesses upon their own payments.
4. A home for the disengaged.
5. Free registration.
7. An asylum for the aged.
Each one of these branches is in operation to-day, with the exception of No. 6. Queen's College, London, which was founded in accordance with this provision, became independent of the Institution in 1852, and there is now no connection between the two, apart from a few free presentations to the college granted by the Institution to girls dependent on a governess. To the latter's activities, however, has been added a Holiday House in the Isle of Wight.
To deal first with the homes supported by the Institution. The Home for Disengaged Governesses is situated at 47, Harley Street, and is intended as a place of residence for governesses during the interval between their engagements. Last year 190 ladies availed themselves of its shelter. The charge for board and lodging is 15s. per week, and the period of residence is for one month or less, subject to extension, if the committee think well, to not more than three months. Admission is granted by the ladies' committee of the home, which meets fortnightly. A governess desiring admission should write, in the first person, to "The Home Committee, 47, Harley Street, W.," enclosing two letters of testimonial from responsible persons, one of whom must be a lady.
A great boon to many an overworked governess with slender means is the Holiday House established in 1905 at Fairmount, Shanklin, through the generosity of Mr. J. R. Furneaux. The inclusive charge for board and residence here is only 10s. 6d. per week, or for teachers in schools 15s. per week (with an extra charge in each case of half a crown a week in July, August, and September),
The reception room at the Home for Disengaged Governesses, 47, Harley Street, London. This useful home is one of the many beneficent activities of The Governesses' Benevolent Institution and visitors are admitted for a month or less, with the possibility of extension to not more than three months. Separate bedrooms are available for nineteen visitors; but the latter must be able to attend to their own physical wants, as the Home is not intended for invalids.
In the event of the house not being fully occupied, other ladies, whether engaged in teaching or not, can be admitted at charges varying from 15s. to a guinea per week (plus half a crown extra during July, August, and September).
In addition to these two Homes for those who are disengaged is the Asylum for Aged Governesses at Chislehurst, admission to which is by election or nomination. Previous to 1872, the asylum was situated at Kentish Town, where the twenty-two inmates were all under one roof; but in that year a new asylum, with a separate house for each annuitant, was opened at Chislehurst. Accommodation is there provided for twelve ladies, each of whom receives a pension of £42 a year, with coals and medical attendance. There are two bedrooms in each dwelling, so that a lady can, subject to the approval of the Board, have a relative or friend to live with her. The annuitants are elected for life, subject to certain conditions.
Every donor of £1,000 to the asylum fund has the right, when a vacancy occurs. to nominate to it; but, apart from the nominees of such donors, election is made according to the number of votes polled, and the length of time candidates have been upon the list. Subscribers to the Governesses' Benevolent Institution are entitled to vote for annuities in proportion to their subscriptions.
In addition to the pensions attached to residence at Chislehurst, the Institution grants to close upon 400 ladies pensions varying from £25 to £60 per annum. Most of these free annuities are provided out of the general funds of the Institution; but over 150 are special annuities founded by legacies or gifts from private individuals, the donors of which, in some cases, have reserved the right of nomination to themselves and their trustees, or have reserved them for a special class of candidate-such as, for example, "the daughter of a medical man," or "the oldest candidate." The annuities which are not ear-marked in any way are elective; that is, the candidate who receives the largest number of subscribers' votes is appointed to the vacancy. Elections are held half yearly. These free annuities are secured on invested capital, and are quite independent of the prosperity of the Institution. Candidates must be British subjects, over fifty years of age, whose total income from all sources does not exceed £60 per annum. Save in exceptional circumstances, candidates must have been governesses in private families for not less than fourteen years in all, and must have been so engaged during some part of the fifteen years preceding their application. Nursery governesses are ineligible, and marriage at any time vacates the annuity.
As the funds of the Institution allow, temporary assistance in the shape of money gifts is given to unsuccessful candidates, and also to governesses who may be temporarily in distress. More than £1,400 is distributed yearly in this way. The fund is administered by a committee of ladies, who afford the help privately, after strict investigation.
A most useful and much valued branch of the Institution's work is the free registration office, located at 47, Harley Street. On the production of two letters of recommendation from responsible persons, other than relatives or the proprietors of boarding-houses, any governess may inscribe her name and requirements upon the register. No charge whatever, either before or after engagement, is made to governesses or to employers making use of the office. In 1909 580 ladies were provided with engagements in this way,
The branch of the Institution's work that will most appeal to those people whose creed is that " Heaven helps those who help themselves" is the Governess Member Fund, which is intended to offer some provision against loss of income in old age by inducing governesses to subscribe to the Institution on the understanding that, should they be compelled at any time to seek its aid, they shall receive certain advantages. In addition to the privilege of voting at the half-yearly elections for annuities, to which the subscription of half a guinea a year entitles them, "governess members" who have subscribed for at least five years previously will, if accepted as a candidate for a free annuity, be entitled to the following advantages:
1. Votes in support of their candidature to the total amount of their subscriptions (after the deduction of any grants that may have been made to them by the society).
2. A share of the votes left by subscribers at the disposal of the Board, which will be divided among candidates who have been "governess members."
3. Additional votes as a "governess member," the number to be allotted depending on the duration of their subscription.
4. The right to compete for certain annuities reserved for "governess members" only.
For those who can afford to put by a substantial sum yearly, the purchase of deferred or immediate Government annuities can be arranged through the provident fund upon exceptionally favourable terms, and with perfect security. Governesses can also open policies insuring their property from fire under any change of residence through the medium of the provident fund.