11 October 1888
SIR, - The Bishop of Bedford has evidently mistook the direction in which we are working. We simply provide a shelter for the night to such men and women as are found sleeping on doorsteps and other places, having no place to lay their head. It is evident those poor creatures who have been so cruelly murdered met their deaths in their efforts to seek the means of providing themselves with a shelter of some kind. But we do not specially direct our efforts to that class, neither is any attempt made to gather them in. The readiness with which the police desire to cooperate with us in sending such poor waifs as they find on their beats to us for shelter is an answer to all objectors and objections, and the good even the first few days it has done is a proof that some such effort was needed and will do lasting good. Should a poor unfortunate come within the door she will find a shelter until the morning, and those who will certainly point a better way if she wishes to go to it. In short, we wish to do good for sake of the good it will do.
Forest Hill, Oct. 10.
THE EAST-END MURDERS. - The evidence which will be given at the adjourned inquest to be held to-day at the City Coroner's Court, Golden-lane, upon the body of the Mitre-square victim, will, it is understood, include the statements of the daughter of the deceased, who has been found occupying a respectable situation as a domestic in the neighbourhood of Kensington. She states that she has not seen her mother for some time, and certainly did not see her on the night she met her death. Two witnesses have also been found who state that they saw the deceased standing on the corner of Duke-street, Aldgate, a few minutes walk from Mitre-square. This was about half-past one o'clock. She was then alone. -Sir Alfred Kirby, Colonel of the Tower Hamlets Fusiliers, who recently made an offer to provide 30 or 50 men belonging to that regiment for service in connection with tracking the perpetrator of the Whitechapel and Aldgate tragedies, has received a reply from Home Secretary to the effect that, having consulted Sir Charles Warren, he had come to the conclusion that it would not be advisable to put the men on for service.
THAT marriage means maintenance to thousands of poor women at the East-end of London is a fact that has been brought prominently before us by the evidence given at the inquests on the unfortunate victims of the recent atrocities. When the husband dies, the widow is left wholly without means and the next step taken is usually a downward one. A connection is formed which is neither matrimonial nor permanent. When this comes to an end, the woman takes the lowest step of all, her poverty driving her to earn a shifty maintenance in the way of which we have heard so much of late. The first idea of a women left unprovided for in the working ranks of life is to become a charwoman. The only things she knows how to do, as a rule, are to scrub a room and cook a few simple dishes. Naturally enough there are more charwomen than there is work for. A small minority manages to make a livelihood. The rest sink lower and lower into vice and degradation, often most unwillingly following the only course that lies between them and starvation. There are Homes for them, it is true, but these are only available after the woman has become one of the "unfortunate" class. Few of them stay in the Homes. The rigid rule maintained there is irksome to those who have been free to do as they liked, and the necessary discipline repels them. With many of them drink has become a craving, and the tea and cold water, the only beverages in the Homes, do not go far to satisfy it. It is difficult to see how these shelters could be made more inviting to the wretched women who refuse to enter them except when enduring direct pangs of cold and hunger, and who leave as soon as they have a little forgotten the sharpness of the sufferings that drove them there. A sympathetic and kindly matron can do much towards reclaiming her sinning sisters. Those who are hard in manner and cold in feeling are detected and disliked at once. There is a sort of super-sensitiveness about women of the unfortunate class that no one who has thought over this saddest of social problems can wonder at. Tact and gentleness are needed in dealing with them; but to these must be added an indomitable firmness, and the union is not a common one. Should any shelter on a large scale be projected for those who only adopt this means of earning money because they must otherwise go hungry or shelterless, the arrangements should be as homelike as possible, each woman having to herself some corner of the building, however small, and being permitted to collect there those small possessions which to them represent the idea of a true home. In any such scheme, the earnings of the women themselves must form a prominent part. The skill of the needle, with many of them, has become lost or dulled for want of practice, but in favourable circumstances it could be readily regained. The same applies to cooking and washing, all of which pursuits could be utilised towards lessening the expenses of the institution. It would form a very great inducement to the women to do their best work, were they to be permitted to apply a certain percentage of their earnings to obtaining from the pawnshops the long-confiscated wedding ring, the framed photograph of the father and mother in the old country home, or the portrait of a little dead child, on which the pawnbroker has lent a few pence. But the other end of the matter needs some consideration. What are we doing towards giving the children of our poor a training on which they may fall back in the hour of need? In Belgium the children are taught to embroider as soon as they can handle a needle. Why not English children as well? Thousands and thousands of pounds are paid away annually by English firms to foreign embroiderers. The same is true of beadwork. The tracing of patterns is another trade that is little followed in England. Technical training is what our poor children need. Let girls destined for factory work learn something of it by technical instruction long before they enter the factory. Let the use of the sewing machine be taught in the same way. This has to be acquired, in stammering fashion, when every moment's failure of comprehending its intricacies means so much lost of what can but badly be spared. School time is the proper period for acquiring manual dexterity. The young fingers are supple and young mind is unpreoccupied, and free to concentrate itself upon the matter in hand. There are many subjects in which little girls could be technically trained. Among them may be mentioned glove-making, straw-plaiting, wicker basket work, lace-making, work in pottery manufactories. In many instances, the mother would teach her little girls the industry she intends them to follow as a means of livelihood, but she cannot, because the Board Schools take her children away from her during all the working hours of the day. It would not be difficult to arrange that technical instruction should be established in connection with the Board Schools. Ribbon-making could be taught near Coventry; straw-plaiting about Luton; lace-work in Buckinghamshire; and so on. Children who are intended for domestic service by their parents should receive instruction in the routine and duties of a private house, which is widely different from that of a school. A budding botanist is not what ladies want in the kitchen, though a knowledge of herbs might occasionally be useful. It cannot be denied that a knowledge of chemistry may be valuable, and it is a fact that the girls of the Board Schools have shown great aptitude in this study. Few of them, however will be able to carry it on when school days are over and the battle of life begins. How many can make a living by it? As things are now, the girls who have passed the fifth standard can sew neatly, know something of cooking and washing, but beyond that, very little of what they have learned is of practical use to them. It should be the object of the Education Department to equip them efficiently for the struggle of life, arming them with such weapons of knowledge as may enable them to hold their own in a hard world. Were this but fully carried out, it should be impossible for any woman in all England to have to earn a few pence a day for a bed in the way in which the recent murders have shed so lurid a light.