HL Deb 12 April 1883 vol 278 cc52-4

in rising to ask Her Majesty's Government, Whether, in the event of future vacancies among the poor law Inspectors, they will consider the propriety of appointing one or more lady inspectors, thus folio wing a precedent set in the case of the late Mrs. Nassau Senior, whose work and reports in the years 1873 and 1874 were of much use to the department of the Poor Law? said, that all matters pertaining to good Poor Law administration were of importance, and none more so than the question of the physical training and moral development of children in workhouses and workhouse schools. Able and conscientious as were the Poor Law Inspectors, there were many matters pertaining to the condition of pauper children, especially female children, which were better managed by women than by men. In 1873, the late Mrs. Nassau Senior, a lady of great ability, moral courage, and most humane disposition, was appointed by Mr. James Stansfeld, the then President of the Poor Law Board, to duties tantamount to those of a Poor Law Inspector. This lady inquired into and reported upon the condition, management, health, and treatment of children, especially female children, in our great Metropolitan pauper schools, of which, at that time, there were 17, though one, the school at Limehouse, had since been closed. The number of children was then, he believed, 8,535, of whom 3,844 were females. This Report, which was sent in to Mr. Stansfeld on January 1, 1874, comprised many valuable suggestions upon such matters as (1) classification of children, (2) sanitary conditions, (3) moral and industrial training, (4) school arrangements, (5) dormitory ar- rangements, (6) food, (7) exercise and play. In addition to this inspection in the Metropolitan area, Mrs. Senior visited orphanages, industrial schools, reformatories, and "Kindergartens" in England and Scotland, besides similar establishments in Paris. The whole of this Report was most valuable. It was preeminently women's work to look after children. He might be asked what definite proposal did he make? Subject to financial considerations, he should be glad to see four Lady Inspectors appointed as supernumeraries to the existing staff of Poor Law Inspectors, whose work and duties should be strictly confined to the care and supervision of the children of both sexes in our workhouses and workhouse schools. One might be assigned to the North of England, one to the East, one to the West, and the fourth to the Metropolitan district, with the Southern counties. If four were too many, he should be satisfied with two appointments, one for the Northern and one for the Southern area of the Kingdom. In these days, when women had proved their ability and eminence in the literary, artistic, and scientific world, he did not doubt but that, with fair opportunities, they would win fresh distinctions in grappling with and overcoming want, neglect, disease, and poverty, which were, unhappily in too many cases, the only patrimony inherited by the poor children who were the inmates of our workhouses and pauper schools. He would press this question very earnestly on the President of the Local Government Board.


in reply, said, that if any ladies were appointed as suggested, such appointments would be rather supplemental to than in substitution for the present staff. When the opportunity offered to appoint a Lady Inspector, the Board would be happy to consider the propriety of making such an appointment. Although he could not pledge the Government to any definite course of action, he might say that the services rendered by Mrs. Nassau Senior were highly appreciated by the Board, which was of opinion that in large workhouses, schools, and ships, good work could be done by ladies. It was satisfactory to find that in the past year eight out of 12 Unions in the Metropolis had elected ladies to serve on the Boards of Guardians. While the Government were unable to comply with the wish of his noble Friend, he could assure him that they were fully sensible of the value of the suggestions he had made, and that they would bear them in mind.