There, after many years of strenuous work on temperance platforms all over the land and in the United States of America, Lady Henry Somerset is devoting the remainder of her life to the achievement of her ideal. She herself lives the simple life in a rustic cottage in the midst of the colony, leaving her stately and beautiful ancestral homes for many months in the year.
Public bodies are beginning to find that it is a saving to the rates to send their "cases" to Duxhurst, and if only seventy or eighty women a year are redeemed, a double service is achieved by demonstrating what the State might do on a larger scale. The colony is not only the work of an idealist, but it is a home for the restoration of woman's ideals.
To turn to yet other triumphs achieved by women idealists, we have an example in Mrs. Humphry Ward's social schemes at the Passmore Edwards Settlement, Bloomsbury. Mrs. Ward was the first to found a public school for cripple and invalid children in this country or in Europe, and the first to start a children's holiday school.
It was said that cripple children were too deficient in mental vigour to be educated to much purpose.
"Not if you train and teach them by special methods in a school of their own," said Mrs. Ward. And the education authorities have found that she is right. Weaklings, who would inevitably have gone to the wall amongst crowds of healthy schoolfellows, have developed unexpected talent under instruction at the special school.
The Government inspector reports most favourably on the work of the pupils. After passing the usual standards, the children are encouraged by an after-training committee, of which Mrs. Ward is president, to study useful handicrafts, and many prove very successful in artistic work. The school is on co-education lines, and works admirably. If a boy is very obstreperous, he is put to sit between two girls.
People smiled at first at the idea that London children would go to a school of their own free will during the holidays. However, Mrs. Ward started her vacation school in the heart of Bloomsbury in August, 1902, and the children flocked to it as if led by the seductive music of the Pied Piper of Hamelin town.
They found it much better fun to join in organised games in the beautiful old garden of the Passmore Edwards Settlement, lent by the Duke of Bedford, to listen to fairy stories on rainy days in the garden encampment, and even to learn drawing, modelling, and useful handicrafts, than to play in the gutter or quarrel on the backstairs.
A Recreation School
Yet another novel scheme for giving wholesome amusement to children has been carried to success by Mrs. Ward in her "recreation school," to provide pleasurable instruction and interests for the public school children of the district in the evenings, and keep them from the contaminating influence of the streets. On gala nights one may see bright-faced lads and lassies giving old English dances and enacting plays to the delight of an audience of parents and friends. In connection with this beautiful idealistic work is a playground for the younger children and a baby's toy-room.
Our women idealists and philanthropists have some of them devoted themselves to work on behalf of men, and amongst those who have won signal triumphs in this direction the name of Miss Agnes Weston at once suggests itself.
Those beautifully equipped Sailors' Rests at Portsmouth and Devonport are national monuments to her work for our brave sailors. People in the past were apt to say that Jack ashore simply wanted his fling and his liberty.
But, like Nelson, Agnes Weston put her blind eye (metaphorically) to the telescope of public vision, and refused to believe that estimate of the sailor. She was convinced that Jack wanted to be "mothered" when he came ashore.
The gallant fellow was soon persuaded that that was what he most craved for, and to-day appreciates to the full the light, airy cubicles, bright dining, sitting, and recreation rooms, with homelike comforts, at the Sailors' Rests which the efforts of "Mother" Weston have called into being. (See page 560, Vol.i.)
When going over the Portsmouth "Rest" I remarked the prominence given to portraits of sweet-faced girlhood. Miss Weston replied, "Jack likes a pretty face, and rightly, so when he comes here I like him to see faces which are pure and beautiful. They may recall the girl he has left behind him in some country village, and speed him to her side.
The University of Glasgow has conferred its honorary degree of Doctor of Law upon Miss Weston in recognition of her work for sailors. Her father was a London barrister. Miss Weston herself holds a brief for the law of kindness.
And when Lord Beaconsfield put those words into the mouth of his hero, the Prime Minister-novelist was voicing his own sentiments regarding the power and influence exercised by the grandes dames of his day in their political salons.
His Zenobia is the highest embodiment of woman as a power in the mid-victorian political world. She betokened a great advance upon the famous Duchess of Devonshire who bought the vote of the bold butcher of Westminster with a kiss, and probably could not for her life have convinced him by argument. Zenobia had knowledge and a subtle intellectual power.
There was little, indeed, which that brilliant woman, lounging on her gay-coloured cushions under the softly gleaming candelabra of her London drawing-room, could not accomplish for her party. The young man with political ambitions was like potter's clay in her hands, and grey-haired diplomats slipped secrets into her ears unawares. Her social genius brought all sorts and conditions of people together and welded incongruous elements in generating motor power for her party.