Idealist v. Jerrybuilder - Toynbee Hall and Its Mission - How the Inebriate is Won Back to Womanliness - A Woman Writer and London Children - The Friend of the Sailorman - Lord Beaconsfield's Zenobia and Her Work - How Women Conduct Political Meetings - Support Candidates - The Primrose League and Its Work - The Leading Liberal Organisations and Their
Workers - A Democratic Countess - The Social Side of Politics f we leave slumland and wend our way to I the Hampstead heights we shall find another woman idealist at work in that most womanly occupation of providing pleasant and convenient homes. The Hampstead Garden Suburb, the first scheme of the kind, owes its initiation to Mrs. Barnett. There have been garden cities before, but not a garden suburb.
Looking forth from her own charming home of St. Jude's Cottage upon the vacant acres surrounding the piece of Hampstead Heath recently saved from destruction by public subscription, Mrs. Barnett thought dismally of the onslaught of the jerry-builders which would inevitably take place. She pondered how the Philistines were to be circumvented.
It proved to be not merely an idealist's dream, but a workable business plan. The company was formed, and ere long Mrs. Barnett had the satisfaction of cutting the first sod of the Hampstead Garden Suburb.
Mrs. Barnett remains a director and the active hon. secretary of the undertaking known as the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust, under whose auspices pretty, rose-covered cottages for the artisan, commodious family villas, and larger houses, standing in their own grounds, have arisen on the breezy heights. Broad, tree-lined ways, flower-decked open spaces and blooming gardens show that the Garden Suburb merits its name. Bachelor flats for women occupied in professional work in town, with a central cuisine, have been planned by Mrs. Barnett's fertile brain, and, what is dearest to her heart of all, "A Haven of Rest" for aged and lonely men and women, consisting of fifty one-apartment flats, around a central green court. Only a woman, one feels, could have planned a one-roomed flat and partitioned it so as to provide accommodation for the tenant to live in comfort and refinement amidst sanitary, cheerful, and even beautiful surroundings for 3s. 3d. per week. In this latter scheme the name of Mrs. Percy Thompson should be associated with that of Mrs. Barnett. Suburb is the crowning work of Mrs. Barnett's strenuous life with her husband, Canon Barnett, in social service. Toynbee Hall, with its many agencies in
East London, is a monument to their united efforts in the past. The best years of Mrs. Barnett's life have been given to bringing things beautiful and elevating within the sight and ken of the toiling folk of grey, unlovely Whitechapel. It was said the poor had no appreciation for good pictures, but go some Saturday afternoon to the Whitechapel Art Exhibition, of which Mrs. Barnett was one of the founders, and the interested faces of working men and women disprove the statement.
"Teach those young ragamuffins nature study?" some cynic might have exclaimed as he watched the gamins in the Whitechapel Road, but Mrs. Barnett knew that "class" makes little distinction in a child's power of observation and receptivity of ideas, and in connection with the Children's Country Holiday Movement, which she inaugurated in 1878, there is a Nature Study Committee, of which Mrs. Barnett is chairman.
Prizes are given to the children for pressed flowers and collections of grasses, and examination papers are set to draw out the observation of the children. The keenness of a street arab's observation is sometimes startling. For example, a lad was asked, "What were the hedges made of in the part of the country where you took your holiday?" He replied: "The hedges in the part of the country where I was was made up of trees, bushes, and sweethearts!"
The embryo painter was surely in the little girl who, asked to describe a sunset, wrote, "One day the sunset would seem as if there was a great fire in heaven, and another day all would be blue with lights dotted over it. One evening it was red with golden stripes, and there was a little black cloud in the shape of a castle." Some day that imaginative child may herself become an idealist, helping to make the world more beautiful, and so the torch is handed on to the next generation.
But let us leave the cult of the ideal in East London and wing our way to that beautiful plateau amongst the Surrey hills, beyond Reigate, where Lady Henry Somerset has founded the Duxhurst Village Settlement for inebriate women.
But why those quaint, rustic cottages, the village green, the church, the manor house, the gay flower borders, the fruit and vegetable gardens, the poultry yard, the lowing cattle, and the "Bird's Nest" for the babies and little children?
The answer is simple. The founder is an idealist. She knows that the ordinary reformatory, with its barrack-like buildings, dull routine, and general monotony, does little for the permanent reclamation of inebriates, particularly if they are women.
But at Duxhurst the sweet simplicity of rural village life acts like a balm upon the soul disgraced and distressed. Women who have fallen so low through drink as apparently to have lost the maternal instinct learn a new the sweet lessons of motherhood in the children's "nest." Performing the duties of the cottage homes of the colony, they revive domestic interest, and in the culture of flowers, the gathering of the ripened fruit, and the peaceful occupation of the dairy forget the old sordid scenes of dissipation in wholesome and interesting work. The hills, the blue skies, and the green pastures make them recoil before memories of the gin palaces. To those who have stumbled and fallen by the way, Duxhurst gives back their womanhood.