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which may serve as an inspiration and example. Nor can I dwell at length even upon these.
Apart from those who compose our own circle of family and friends, there are four classes of our fellow-men upon whom we may exercise our “Charity,"—that is, whom we may serve.
I. Those who have already reached the lowest depths, who have given up even the pretense of independence, who are housed in “public institutions," in poorhouses, prisons, insane asylums. Much may be done for these to render their lives more bearable, to help them to accept the hard lessons of their purgatory, and to learn, before they die, that one lesson which no other experience of life has succeeded in teaching them, the lesson of self-control. This has been recognized by women for years, and they have carried comfort and help, both physical and spiritual, to these unhappy beings. It has not been common, however, for women, until within a few years, to concern themselves with the management of the public institutions themselves, and although Miss Dorothea Dix began very early to devote herself to this work and spent her life in bringing about reforms in the insane asylums of many different States, still it is scarcely twenty years since such work has been generally considered to be within the sphere of women. There are now four States, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Wisconsin, in which women have accepted positions on the State Boards of Charity, and they have in these positions been very useful in bringing their critical and criticising powers and their knowledge of detail to bear upon the management of State and County institutions, besides forcing into prominence the moral aspects of the questions dealt with by the official Boards of which they are members.
The first volunteer association established to visit and improve the public institutions (as distinguished from the individual inmates), and the agency which first turned the attention of women generally to their duty in this direction, and convinced men that it was one which women were competent to perform, was the State Charities Aid Association of New York, founded in 1872 by a woman, who, during the war, had discovered and proved the working powers of women in the societies auxiliary to the Sanitary Commission. The Association consists of a central body of men and women, giving much time and thought to the study of the theory and history of all questions relating to the public care of the suffering and dependent, and of an associated committee in each county of the State, engaged in active inspection of the local method of caring for these unfortunates. These County Committees appeal to the central body for advice and instruction as to the best means to overcome the evils they discover, and furnish it with facts and figures to aid its study of general principles.
An immense good has been accomplished all through the State of New York by the Association by means of the public opinion aroused in relation to matters concerning which, before its formation, the public conscience seemed to be dead. All matters relating to the causes and prevention of pauperism are dealt with by it; it deserves the thanks of the whole country for having been the means of establishing the first trainingschool for nurses ever opened here, and it was very active in securing the passage of the New York law forbidding the detention of children between the ages of two and sixteen years in poorhouses.
In New Jersey there is a similar association, working upon very much the same plan, and modeled upon that of New York.
In Pennsylvania the saving of children from the contamination of the vile associations of the poorhouse was also due to women, and they have founded a society to take charge of those children who would, but for their labors, be public dependents.
The following extracts from the reports for 1885 and 1886 of the Pennsylvania Children's Aid Society will suffice to show its objects and methods, and also, let us hope, to incite other women in other States, where it is still neglected, to take up the work of gathering together and turning into the noble river of working humanity the little rills, which, if left to trickle into the great slough of pauperism and vice, only serve to increase its slimy foulness, and require deep and expensive channels to carry them off after they have become corrupt and poisonous in its depths.
The object of the Children's Aid Society is to provide for the welfare of destitute and neglected children by such means as shall be best for them and for the community. Our method of accomplishing this object is :
1. By placing such children in carefully selected private families, mostly in the country, paying a moderate rate of board where necessary, and following up each case with such inquiry and supervision as may secure to the child the conditions of physical and moral well-being.
2. By utilizing existing institutions for children as temporary homes, while permanent family places are being sought.
3. By putting, so far as possible, the support of a child upon its relatives or parents, legitimate or otherwise, and by preventing the needless separation of mothers and children.
4. By keeping an open office (39 South Seventeenth Street, Philadelphia), where any citizen can receive free information about public provision and private opportunities for homeless children.
5. By organizing, in the cities and counties of Pennsylvania, auxiliary societies under the direction of capable and willing women, who will not only help find good country homes for the poor children of Philadelphia, but will also care for the destitute and pauper children of their own localities.
Our experience and observation abundantly confirm the following conclusions :
1. That there is no need of any more public institutions for the care of destitute children, and that much of the money now devoted to orphanages, etc., might be more usefuly spent in securing homes for such children in private families and paying their board.
2. That there is no serious difficulty in finding suitable private homes, on the boarding-out plan, for all homeless children, excepting such as require treatment in hospitals or training in idiot asylums.
3. That children brought up in institutions are not so well fitted for their later life outside such institutions as those reared in families. Congregated in large numbers, they run greater risks of contagious disease ; they lead an unnatural life of monotony or stimulation ; they must all be treated alike, with a minimum of personal regard ; they are often at the mercy of hired care-takers with little parental feeling.
4. Child-caring institutions are nevertheless important as temporary homes, or as receiving and forwarding houses for the children, while permanent places are being found.
5. The law forbidding the detention of children in almshouses can best be carried out by the co-operation of the Directors of the Poor, with voluntary associations of discreet and benevolent women, who are willing to find places for the children, look after their welfare, and report to the Directors. It is for the interest of the tax-payers that these children be taken out of the pauper class as soon as possible and absorbed in the community
6. In a county where such an association exists, and where the Directors make fair allowance for the support of the children, there is no excuse for detaining any child in the headquarters for paupers and no need for creating an institution for pauper children. .... A very important and constantly increasing feature of our work seeks the welfare of the child by promoting that of the mother. Almost every day women bring their babies to the office with a pitiful tale of poverty, misfortune, and alas ! often of crime, asking sometimes to have their little ones taken and provided for either to save themselves the burden, or to conceal their own disgrace.
The Society has always felt and endeavored to perform its solemn duty in such cases, which consists in keeping the child and mother together, making each the guardian of the other, and preserving the tie as the strongest incentive to a better life on the part of the mother. The interests of the child demand this, unless its natural protector should prove herself totally unfit for the simplest duties of motherhood.
Many respectable families in the country are glad to receive the services of an able-bodied, though inefficient woman, in return for low wages, and the privilege of allowing a small child to run about the house. In this way, these poor creatures are encouraged to regain the path of honesty and virtue, and, as the child grows older, its love and helpless demands form the strongest barrier which can surround the mother's life.
The work of placing these women at service has increased to such an extent that the entire attention of one person might be given to this department.
Besides the mother and her child the Society deals with a third member of this caricature of family life, namely, the father. Here the strong arm of the law is required to fix the responsibility, secure support for the child, and, if possible, to punish the wrong-doer. The services of our Solicitor are in constant requisition for this retributive task. . ...
The Children's Aid Society of Pennsylvania has forty-four County Committees, besides its Central Board in Philadelphia.
In Connecticut, County Homes have been opened (under Laws of 1883-4-5) to receive temporarily children dependent upon the public, and committees, composed almost exclusively of women, appointed to supervise these Homes and find permanent homes in families for the children.
In Massachusetts, women are appointed as members of the Board of Managers of the State schools for delinquent and dependent children, and a very important work for women has been developed in caring for such children outside the schools. In order not to injure the boy or girl by longer retention in the school than is absolutely required for training, each one is, at the earliest moment when his progress warrants the trial, placed in a family to work ; but that the trial may be as favor. able as possible, for each child so placed, a volunteer friend is found by the Board in the neighborhood, who is to watch over and give advice and assistance both to the child and its guardian. There are at present (October, 1889) eighty-four of these women visitors, officially appointed and recognized by the State as part of its system of caring for dependent and delinquent children. Of these children, thus freed from the weakening influence of a too long extended institution life, there are now in Massachusetts 1063 boys and girls under this State care.
This special work (of taking dependent children from poorhouses and other public institutions and placing them in private families, thus returning to a natural and happy life those who, but for such transplanting, would have been doomed to grow up tainted with pauperism and vice) owes its inception to the personal devotion and the labor of years of individual women in certain counties of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. But for the proof of its wisdom and practicability which they gave by their successful work, it would never have assumed the position it now holds. These women have not only saved the individual children whom they took from vile surroundings, amid the contaminating companionship of the lowest of men and women, but they have set an example which is spreading over the country and which will change for the better the future of whole States,
The Women's Prison Association of New York visits the prisons of New York and Brooklyn, and within a few years the Women's Christian Temperance Union has organized a department of prison work, which will be spoken of elsewhere in this book,* but until their attention was thus called to the horrible evils of the county jails of this country, its women, with the rarest exceptions, seemed absolutely ignorant of this great national wickedness. In Massachusetts women are, and have been for a few years, members of the Prison Board, and in Massachusetts, Indiana, and New York, there are State prisons and reformatories for women under the charge of women officers.
Women are peculiarly fitted for the work of inspecting public institutions, and it would be much better if, in every community, instead of starting so many private institutions of charity, they would give their attention to the oversight of the public institutions, already necessarily existing, and which, too often, by their mismanagement, very much increase, not only the sufferings of the miserable people already in them, but also the number of those who will hereafter have to be supported as inmates.
II. Another class of sufferers needing tender care are the inmates of private Homes for old people, convalescents, and incurables ; and of hospitals, reformatories, and asylums for children. Such institutions as these are usually established and managed by women, excepting the hospitals, which, though under the care of men, often have an associate board of women to take the oversight of the daily comfort of the patients.
The Homes for the aged in our cities are many of them established by churches for their dependent members, and in almost all an entrance fee is required. There are Homes for aged married couples in some of our cities, and in many, also, a free Home for old men and women, maintained by the Roman Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor, who receive inmates, however, of every faith.
Of Homes for convalescents and incurables there are very few, comparatively, though it would seem as if the hard lot of these two classes of sufferers would appeal most strongly to tender-hearted women. In no one community, however, have we adequate provision for them, and they languish, unwelcome inmates of hospitals and poorhouses. There is a small Home for Incurables in Boston, founded by a young Roman Catholic Irish woman, who earned her daily bread by hair-dressing, and
* Cee chapter, Work for the Criminal Classes.-ED.