By Sarah A. Tooley
Free Churches and Women - The Baroness Burdett-coutts and Her Work - The Pioneer of Nursing
Reform - An Unanswerable Reply - The Ministering Angel of the Slums
Women have done nine-tenths of the work of the Church," said Dr. Gore, the Bishop of Oxford, in his eloquent appeal at the Representative Church Council that women should be qualified to vote for members of the House of Laymen.
The position of women in the Anglican Church is a vital question of the hour, and the support given by leading churchmen to the admission of women to the franchise of the Church, in common with laymen, leads to the supposition that the debated question must ere long come to a triumphant conclusion.
In apostolic times women were preachers and deaconesses, and there is reason to believe that there were female apostles. There is at least a legend of a female head of the Papacy, but whether Pope Joan existed or not, there is no question about the positions of dignity and power filled by abbesses and prioresses in pre-re-formation days in this country. After the Reformation the one modest office in the Church which remained to women was that of churchwarden.
To-day the Church admits women to be deaconesses, great administrators, patrons, c h u r c h-wardens, and home and foreign missionaries. They may also perform the humbler offices of verger, pewopener, and bell ringer, and one vicar's wife has climbed the church steeple.
The late Miss Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of nursing reform and a heroine of the Crimean War, the horrors of which she and her devoted band of nurses did so much to mitigate
Photo, London Stereoscopic Company
Though the Church has limited the work of the priesthood to men, it has grown and flourished through the ministry of women. Their labours and their influence pervade every parish in every diocese, and they are the founders and organisers of great societies and associations for their own sex which intersect the land and have branches all over the Empire.
The women's meetings in connection with the Church Congress, touching as they do upon vital social questions of the hour, increase yearly in national importance. From the wife of the Archbishop to that of the humblest curate, women are arduous in their ministrations. One wonders indeed, in reviewing the past, where the Church would have been but for the devoted work of its women. Magnificent are their triumphs in the realm of service.
When we pass to the Free Churches, we find the same splendid devotion of the women members, whether in the influential Nonconformist churches of the metropolis or in the humble chapel of some remote village. But not only do they work; women are admitted to membership on equal terms with men. They attend the business meetings of the church, vote for the appointment of the minister and the deacons and the admission of members. They may be ordained ministers and deacons in the Congregational body, and there is nothing, I believe, in the trust-deed of Hackney College, Hampstead, to debar a woman entering for theological training. Women may be local preachers, class leaders, and even circuit stewards and delegates to the district meetings or synods, amongst the Methodist churches.
Interest was caused in 1894 by Miss Dawson of Redhill being elected delegate to the Wesleyan Conference. It was the revival of an ancient right, and in the heated discussion in the Conference the late Rev. Hugh Price Hughes was an eloquent advocate for the admission of the lady delegate. The Conference, however, decided that the lady might sit in their assembly, but was not to vote.
Incidentally, the matter raised the point as to whether a woman might "report" the proceedings of the Conference and join the Press table. I presented myself in fear and trembling, was received with the utmost courtesy, and requested to sit amongst the "legal hundred," or veteran delegates to the Conference, and under the protection of a phalanx of greybeards, reported the proceedings for Lady Henry Somerset's paper, "The Woman's Signal."
Photo, Elliott & Fry
The Society of Friends, from its rise in 1646, has given its women equal place in all respects with men. The women of that community are many of them able speakers at meeting, and have been ever active in good works and progressive social reforms,
The late Baroness Burdett-coutts, who received a peerage from Queen Victoria in recognition of her munificent philanthropy and work for the public weal Photo, Elliott & Fry in this country and in America. The Society of Friends gave us Elizabeth Fry.
The triumphs of women in the field of philanthropy are largely associated with their religious activities, but in our own day two women have received special marks of public distinction of a national character.
The Baroness Burdett-coutts received her peerage from Queen Victoria in recognition of her munificent philanthropy and unceasing work for the public weal. She was the first woman presented with the Freedom of the City of London, and also of that of Edinburgh, and she was accorded the unique honour of burial in Westminster Abbey. Miss Florence Nightingale, for her heroic efforts on behalf of the sick and wounded soldiers in the Crimean campaign, received a national tribute of £48,000. with which she endowed the Nightingale Nurse Training School of St. Thomas's Hospital, the pioneer institution which inaugurated the trained nursing system, possibly the greatest social re-form of last century. In the last years of her life the Queen of Nurses received the Order of Merit, being the first and, so far, the only woman so honoured, and was accorded the Freedom of the City of London. Westminster Abbey was offered for her interment, but Florence Nightingale had chosen her resting-place in the family burying-ground midst the Hampshire hills of her childhood.
Women have been brave advocates in unpopular humanitarian causes, a striking example of which was the unre-mitting labour amidst much obloquy of Miss Frances Power Cobbe in the anti-vivisection crusade.
Once, when she presented an anti-vivisection petition to a distinguished judge, he remarked, "Only women," as he glanced down the signatures. "You might have said the same thing, sir, at the foot of the Cross," replied Miss Cobbe.
In the realm of sociology women have achieved in recent times some remarkable triumphs as idealists and promoters of the
The late Lord Goschen once said of Miss Octavia Hill that she was "a Chancellor of the Exchequer lost to the nation." But when one sees to-day those great slum wildernesses of London which, under her management, have been made to blossom like the rose with pretty, habitable dwellings, and playgrounds for the children, one is inclined to offer a paean of thanks that Otcavia Hill found her life work not in the seat of the Chancellor, but in planning homes for the London poor.
Wherever her fairy wand has waved, whether in that once terrible Whitecross Street, or in the slums of Southwark, Majy-lebone, and Notting Dale, ugliness, squalor, and misery have given place to beauty, order, and sanitation. Houses once tenanted by people who did not pay rent on "principle" are now a profit to their owners, thanks to Miss Hill's system of rent collecting combined with friendly supervision, a system, by the way, which affords occupation to a number of women rent-collectors.
Little did Octavia Hill dream on that day, more than forty years ago, when she first unfolded her scheme to John Ruskin, in his house at Denmark Hill, how great would be its development. The master was in a pessimistic mood.
You paid calls, wrote letters, went out for a drive, but where was the satisfaction of it all? he queried.
"I know what I should do if I had the means," ventured his visitor.
"Tell me?" he asked.
"I should try and do something to improve the homes of the London poor," replied Octavia Hill.
"Have you a business plan?" said Ruskin, roused to interest.
She was, however, able to satisfy him with a well-thought-out scheme; and finally Ruskin placed some slum property in Marylebone under her care, and undertook to finance the starting of the scheme.
We need not follow the details. Octavia Hill's work is known to the world, and has inspired reformers in other lands. We picture her a courageous, enthusiastic young lady climbing dark staircases, amidst indescribable filth, rent-bag in hand, and persuading rough men and slatternly women to set their homes in order and pay rent willingly for an improved and sanitary dwelling.
We see her again to-day planning and arranging the rebuilding and remodelling of a vast slum area in Southwark, placed under her management by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, until, where 800 families lived in filth and misery, always in arrears of rent, a larger number of families are accommodated in pretty, well-arranged houses and cottage flats.
This is an age of "model dwellings." Some are too "model" to have space for cupboards, as Queen Alexandra once discovered, or provision for rearing a family of healthy boys and girls. But all the areas which have been planned and housed by Miss Octavia Hill show a woman's love of little children, a woman's knowledge of the housewife's requirements, and a refined woman's sense of the value of the beautiful and artistic upon human character.
There are halls, too, bright with flowers, cheerful with blazing fires, and beautiful with the paintings and carvings of friends, where the tenants and their families and neighbours listen to good music, act plays, and enjoy social life.