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Poverty & Charity

The Victorian world was one of contrasts, some of them ugly. For some, it was the world of elegant fashions, high teas, presentations at court, and servants. For others it was a world of abject squalor and poverty. Many articles and books on the Victorian period address one side of this coin or the other -- but in reality they often intersected. Well-to-do Victorians were not unaware of the conditions of the poor, nor were they universally uncaring. Victorian magazines were filled with articles calling attention to the conditions of the "less fortunate," with suggestions on how one could help.

See also "Models of Benevolence" for articles on people who were noted for their charitable works in Victorian and pre-Victorian times.


Children of the Pantomime, by Anne Beale (GOP 1885)
"All these young creatures, when 'on,' as they call it, are kept up till midnight in their various theatres; often shivering with cold, in their gauzy, shining costume; often hungry; always in a state of unnatural excitement. Yet... the doors of the theatres are besieged by clamouring mothers, who will sell their children for hire, to become any sort of creature that the exigencies of the play demand..."
Girls of the Ballet and Chorus, by Anne Beale (GOP 1885)
Explores some of the difficulties faced by women who work or have worked upon the stage.
The Mother's Prayer, by Emily Macirone (GOP 1896)
A story of a workhouse child.
My District, and How I Visit It by Dora Hope (GOP 1881)
Leaving aside the concept that it is practically a lady's duty to barge into the homes of the poor in order to reform them, this article provides an interesting glimpse of London's poorer inhabitants.
On Being a "Visiting Lady" (GOP 1891)
More on being a "district visitor."
Round the Parks, by the Hon. Emily Kinneard (GOP 1888)
A brief article on how the homeless found refuge in the parks of London.


It's not always easy to distinguish between "charities" and "missions." This section covers charities and organizations that seek to provide "real-world" assistance (such as housing, training, food and care, protection, etc.), even though they may also have a missionary or reformatory purpose as well. Organizations that focus primarily on Christian education, conversion or reform (including temperance) are listed under "Mission Work."

The Children's Day, by The Rev. Henry Bradley, MA (GOP 1891)
In London in the summertime, those who live near the rails become accustomed to seeing the "specials" go by -- trainloads of city children being taken to a day-long excursion in the country. This article explores their amusements and how to handle a "children's day in the country."
A Fortnight in Our Paris Orphanage, by Anne Beale (GOP 1887)
Great Centre for the Reception of Used Postage Stamps, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1901)
A brief article about an orphanage, which generated a part of its income by processing used postage stamps.
The Invalid Children's Aid Association, by W. Lawrence Liston (GOP 1891)
Ladies' Work Among Sailors and Soldiers, by Alice King (GOP 1881)
A visit to "The Soldiers' Institute" and "The Sailors' Welcome," two London charities.
Miss Rye's Girls' Homes, by the right Hon. The Marquess of Lorne (GOP 1884)
Orphan children were sent from Miss Rye's Home in London to a home for orphans in Niagara, Canada, where they were to be trained in domestic service.
My Life Work, by May Carden (GOP 1895)
Work that led to the founding of the Working Youths' Institute.
Our Little Children, by Emma Brewer (GOP 1889)
On the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
The Princess Louise Home (GOP 1882-1893)
The Princess Louise Home in Essex, also known as "The National Society for the Protection of Young Girls," provided refuge for girls seeking to escape "immoral surroundings," and gave them training in domestic service. Between 1882 and 1893, The Girl's Own Paper regularly ran appeals for contributions and support for the Home, and sponsored regular fundraising bazaars through its readership.
Prison Fledgelings, by Anne Beale (GOP 1892)
The Prison Mission, and its work with men and boys.
The Royal Home for Ladies, by Frank Hird (GOP 1895)
The Royal Home for Ladies with Limited Income at Wandsworth - a home that could house 27 elderly ladies whose annual income was between 20 and 50.
"Sowers and Reapers," by Anne Beale (GOP 1893)
A report on a theatrical meeting of the Sowers and Reapers' Union.
What Girls Are Doing for South London, by the Rev. Thomas B. Willson (GOP 1900)
The United Girls' Schools Mission.


An Appeal (GOP 1887-1892)
An ongoing appeal for donations of old Christmas cards and other gifts to schools and missions in India, with letters detailing how cards and gifts were received.
The Distribution of the Competition Garments to the Children of the Board Schools (GOP 1888)
Girls as Needleworkers for the Poor, by H.R.H. The Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck (GOP 1893)
Regarding the London Needlework Guild; members were asked to contribute two handmade items of good, useful clothing per year, to be distributed to the poor.
Home Improvement Societies, by Dora Hope (GOP 1884)
"Comfortable homes, and something wherewith to occupy themselves there would do more to close the public-houses than any amount of talking; the object, therefore, to be aimed at by this society is to induce the women, by improvement in needlework and cookery, to make their homes more attractive than the public-houses, and to persuade the men to add to the comforts of their homes, and provide themselves with amusement in the evenings by carpentering, or any other useful employment they may fancy."
Home Parties of the Poor, by Emma Brewer (GOP 1896)
Suggestions on how to provide parties and entertainments for the poor.
How Girls Can Help Workhouse Inmates, by B.C. Saward (GOP 1895)
This article provides tips on how ladies can teach workhouse inmates useful skills that can earn them some income, such as sewing, knitting and basket-weaving; it provides instructions and patterns for same; and finally, suggests boarding workhouse children in one's home.
Work for Squires' Daughters, by Barrett Knox (GOP 1897)
How to be helpful in the parish.
How to Give (GOP 1897)
"An immense amount of harm is done by injudicious and ill-considered giving... To be a blessing rather than the reverse, a gift should be accompanied by 'sanctified common cause,' and due inquiry should be made as to the truth of the appeal made to us." An interesting piece on identifying the "deserving poor."
How to Make Poor Children's Clothing, by Dora Hope (GOP 1880)
How to Make Presents for the Poor, by Josepha Crane (GOP 1893)
How We Managed Our Creche (GOP 1897)
Adding a creche for babies to a "ragged school."
How We Managed Our Girls Guild (GOP 1891)
The Kyrle Society (GOP 1883)
Among its activities were "taking small parties of children from London courts out into the sunshine in parks, or to museums or picture galleries, or to your own gardens on summer evenings."
A Letter of Thanks (GOP 1889)
A letter of thanks for the donations resulting from a competition to make various knitted items for fishermen. (Click HERE for the original competition details.)
A Novel Garden-Party (GOP 1892)
Garden parties given in the country by one Mr. Boyer for hundreds of London street children.
On Work Among the Poor (GOP 1896)
Our Bazaar, by Dora Hope (GOP 1881)
Ideas for making a variety of items for a bazaar stall out of inexpensive objects and discards.
Our Flower Mission (GOP 1885)
Distributing flowers and bouquets to hospital patients in London.
Parish Work, by Alice King (GOP 1884)
Penny Dinners, by Phillis Browne (GOP 1885)
How to set up a soup kitchen.
Poor Children Among Country Flowers, Fruits and Birds, by Mrs. S.A. Barnett (GOP 1901)
On arranging country "field trips" for poor London children.
A Tea-Party in the Height of the Season (GOP 1893)
A tea-party given for handicapped children.
What Girls Can Do to Hush "The Bitter Cry," by Mrs. S.A. Barnett (GOP 1884)
Ways girls can help those in need.
Winter Parties of the Poor (GOP 1896)


"Called to the Bar", by Anne Beale (GOP 1886)
Outreach efforts of the YWCA (primarily temperance) in the refreshment "bars" serving railway stations.
How to Manage a Band of Hope, by Linda Gardiner (GOP 1896)
A "Band of Hope" is designed to teach children about temperance.

How to Manage a Band of Mercy, by Linda Gardiner (GOP 1896)
A "Band of Mercy" is designed to teach children about kindness to animals.
Thames Church Mission, by Anne Beale (GOP 1882, 1883)
A look inside a mission service for sailors and fishermen.
St. Bernards of Brighton (GOP 1890)
An account of the Sunday services held at the Invalid Gentlewoman's Home in Brighton.
What It Means to Be a "Sister," by Flora Klickmann (GOP 1902)
The work of Church of England sisters and "dissenting" sisters.

A Farewell, by Anne Beale (GOP 1883)
Account of the departure of missionaries to Syria.
Girl Volunteers for South Africa (GOP 1902)
"Over three thousand British girls have volunteered to go out to South Africa to teach the little Boer children how to read, write, and spell and do their sums, and sing." Actually only 100 girls were requested, and this article spells out what they could expect in terms of working and living conditions.
Girls' Work in the Mission Field: Europe, by Mary Selwood (GOP 1883)
An interesting look at the status of Christianity in Europe during Victorian times.
Girls' Work in the Mission Field, by Mary Selwood (GOP 1882)
A look at life in India and China, and "how we favoured Englishwomen can help these poor unhappy sisters of ours" in each country.
In India with Medical Missionaries, by the Hon. Emily Kinnaird (GOP 1891)
Medical Women for India, by Frances Hoggan, MD (GOP 1884)
On the need for female doctors, and training for women in medicine, in India, where most women were precluded from visiting male doctors. Interesting sidelight on the evolution of medical training for women in general.
A Missionary Album, by Eliza Brightwen (GOP 1897)
How to save and organize pictures from a mission trip.
White Versus Black: The Congo Training Institute for Native African Missionaries, Colwyn Bay, North Wales (GOP 1897)
Copyright © 2018 by
Moira Allen.
All rights reserved.

Magazine Abbreviations:
CFM = Cassell's Family Magazine GOP = Girl's Own Paper ILA = Illustrated London Almanack S = The Strand
AM = Atlantic Monthly C = Century Magazine D = Demorest's Monthly Magazine G = Godey's Lady's Book H = Harper's Monthly
Find out more about the magazines used on this site!
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