GIRLS' FRIENDLY SOCIETIES
The following paper by Lady Jervois was read at the meeting in July of the Girls’ Friendly Society at Rochester, by Miss Jervois It is a great pleasure to respond to the invitation of your president to tell you a little of Girls’ Friendly Society work in the colonies; and 1 am only sorry that weak health prevents me being present at your Conference. You are all no doubt aware that the Girls’ Friendly Society is planted in all the colonies of Australia, as well as in Tasmania and New Zealand. My own personal experience is confined to South Australia, and, subsequently, to New Zealand. The Girls' Friendly Society was started in South Australia ten years ago. Its beginnings were small, and its difficulties have been great, for the oolony was founded by Nonconformists, and in spite of the quick growth and vitality of the phurch, the number of earnest workers is, as might be exall too small for the varied work there is to be done; many of the best workers are Dissenters, and so oannot help us. It is, however, holding its own; and 1 hope will continue,to grow with the increase of the church there. In New Zealand the Girls’ Friendly Society is established in the provinces of Wellington, Christchurch, and Auckland, I should tell yon that although Wellington is the capital and seat of Government, yet there are three or four other cities of greater size and importance. In the early days of the Girls’ Friendly Society, we "discussed the possibility of having a central council for the whole of New Zealand, with .diocesan councils under it as in England; but as Auckland and Ghristchuch are distant three or four days by sea, it would have been impossible to organise. yearly meetings of delegates from the different dioceses, 'so we Were obliged to let the society in each diocese work independently, and there are, therefore, now the Auckland Girls’ Friendly Society, the Wellington Girls’ Friendly Society, and the Christchurch Girls’ Friendly Society. These societies correspond together regarding matters of special interest, and in Wellington and Christchurch there is a quarterly celebration of Holy Communion at the aaipe day. and hour for united prayer for a blessing on their work, In Christchurch the society is fortunate in haying for its most efficientiion. sec. a niece of the president of the English Girls’ Friendly Society, and she is greatly helped by Miss F. Tor}esse, who was for many years a worker in the English M.A.B.YS. Miss Torlesse is mow lady superintendent of a home in connection with the Girls’ Friendly Society, and her great experience is most valuable. In Wellington the society is, 1 think, slowly but steadily growing; there are about SOO members and
100 associates. The council meets monthly, and there is a quarterly meeting of associates, where the affairs of the society are discussed, new associates admitted, and some paper beaming on the work of tho society is read by the] president or one of the workers, or, perhaps, one of the many interesting papers from the English ‘Associates’ Journal.’ There are two festivals in the yeaf. The winter one begins with a service in one of the churches, followed by tea in the recreation room of the lodge. There 'is generally an address by the president, the piizes for Bible and needlework competition and the cards for long service are given, and there is singing or music either by the members or associates. The summer festival consists generally of a picnic in the country or in the Botanic (hardens. There is a beautiful lodge belonging to the Girls’ Friendly Society, planned with great care and thought, and just before we left Wellington we had the great happiness of seeing it free from debt. It can receive seventeen boarders, and we reckon that with eight permanent lodgers (now' there is no dent upon it) it will be self-supporting." It waA' very gratifying to see how heartily the members helped in collecting funds to pay off the debt, as well as helping in the cake fair, which was the last effort to wipe it out. 1 hope that the lodge will not only prove a great boon to‘the many young women who use it, but that it will strengthen the society greatly in Wellington. Besides the fict that it is'a rallying point for the workers, and that Its beautiful recreation room will, I*hope, be more and more used for all matters con'iiected With woman’s work in Wellington, I know that it has helped to interest in the Girls’ Friendly Society many who before looked upon it as a sentimental fad, bat who realise the immense benefit of a home to which respectable girls from England or from the other colonies may find a hearty welcome, and friendly and wise counsel should thhy need it. ThS great difficulty that the work meets with in the colonies is in the misconceptions that prevail about it. It ; is prpvoking to find the persistence with which it is spoken of as a society for spoiling servant girls, in spite of all our efforts to induce shop and factory girls and all respectable' young women to. join. I may here mention that I have found Miss Hawksley’s little pamphlet (‘ Girls’ Friendly Society ; What does it Mean ? ’) of the greatest use in giving people a true idea of the soclety-s aims.- I got out twelve copies two or three years ago, and jjave them to the associates to lend as Widely as they could; and it was the greatest pleasure to receive them back with soiled covers, i&oWing how well they had been read. I know that they converted many who had before been hostile Into friends of the society. But the difficulty is not only with outsiders but with the associates themselves.
While we rejoice in many earnest workers who are worth their weight in gold, there are others who seem to make no effort to grasp the real objects of the society, and who. by their criticising remarks often cripple the hand? of the workers. But this is jnst what occurs in England, and only shows the need of . perseverance in continually bolding up the standard at which we aim. Indeed it has been the case with one or two who are now our warmest supporters that they were hostile to the society until they realised that its great object is not simply to organise classes and other means for the.instruction orrecreation of girls, but to unite women of all ranks and ages in endeavoring to uphold a high standard of character; that our watchword is purity; and that we seek to foster in women all that is modest and of good report. Then, regards the, members themselves, we have tried more and more to impress on them thabtjhey join the society hot so much for what they can get as for what they can do by its means, and we.try-to induce them to take up some special work, however small, in connection with it. Many of them do this .Jn Zealand, and in the Girls’ Friendly Societies inMelbonme and Ballarat, la Australia, ! have read with pleasure how earnestly some of their members have worked, two of them even having by their own efforts started a branch of the society in some town in the-Oonntry.' No donbt there is a difference in girls in England and the colonies, and they are better paid for their labor, so that there is little poverty amongst them. I am sorry to say that even although the temptaljion of, poverty , is removed, the amount of immorality is still great—whether as great, or greater than in England I have no means of judging; bat at any rate it shows that this society, with its earnest protest against evil living, is quite as need.
ful in the colonies as it is in England, even although the conditions of life may be somewhat different. A further difficulty that we have found is in keeping servants in view, partly owing to the short notice (only a week) which is necessary on leaving their places. I have said that we make every effort to reach shop and factory girls. \Ye have two associates for factories, and a fair number of factory girls do join us, but only a fraction of those we should like to get hold of, I should be grateful if any friends in England would give me any suggestions as to means which have been found successful in England in inducing them to join us, 1 think the factory girls themselves always listen respectfully, but in many cases the masters will not allow the associates to enter their factories.
Owing to a strong desire on the part of one of our branches, we have made a rule by which Nonconformists may be admitted to help in the society. They are called friendly workers, and pay 2s 6d per year, and they are invited among other things to collect the girl members of the congregations to which they belong, and to form them into classes. They are not, however, eligible to sit on the council, which is composed of associates only, or to vote atthemeetings. We made these two last stipulations in order to preserve intact the first central rule of the Girls’ Friendly Society, which practically keeps the government of the society in the hands of associates. Ido not anticipate a very large increase of workers from this rule, for it is naturally difficult for Nonconformists to understand the reasons for our first central rule ; still a few have already joined us who are valuable helpers, and we are by this new rule manifesting our wish, in so far as possible, to work together in a good cause. I may here mention that the Mothers’ Union has been lately started In Wellington. It has the same rules as the English Union, except that Nonconformists are allowed to join as associates. I myself believe that it has been wise thus to enlarge its sphere, and I hope and believe that this Union will strengthen the hands of the Girls’ Friendly Society by bringing very young girls more and more under its influence. In Christchurch the Mothers’ Union is, I believe, worked entirely on church lines. I have told you of some of the difficulties in the colonies, and think you will see that practically the same difficulties beset us in the colonies as in the Mother Country ; but they are difficulties which, instead of discouraging, should urge ns on to increased vigor in our work. And, indeed, 1 think there is no work which has more power to strengthen those who take it up in truth. The longer I have worked for the Girls’ Friendly Society the more do I become convinced of its urgent need both in England, in the colonies, and wherever English girls are gathered together making their own way in the world. What I feel is so much needed in the colonies is more general enthusiasm and belief in its power for good on the part of the workers. If these are wanting the society will languish; and I wish it could be made a subject for prayer that God will raise up more workers in the colonies, who both may grasp to the full the scope of the society’s work, and may have wisdom and grace to carry it out.
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GIRLS' FRIENDLY SOCIETIES, Evening Star, Issue 8029, 4 October 1889
GIRLS' FRIENDLY SOCIETIES Evening Star, Issue 8029, 4 October 1889
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