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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

And in 1866 the Prison Gate Mission began


in Ireland. As a little child she was accustomed to go about with her father, and the interior of prisons became familiar to her. Later in life, when her family ties were broken, and her hands left free for service, her interest was engaged in behalf of the women convicts who were discharged from prison. She enlisted the support of other ladies of like views, able to assist her, and in 1866 the Prison Gate Mission began, which has continued to the present day. Every morning, as the gate of Millbank prison swings back to allow those who have been released from penal bondage to come forth, a sister stands waiting to invite those who will go with her to a room near by, where breakfast awaits them; there are ladies to inquire about their plans and to offer them work. A great laundry was opened in 1867 to provide employment for these women. Here washing is done for two classes: for the poor and sick, to whom the service is given as a charity, and to those who pay for the work and whose money enables the mission to be partly self-supporting. Then the ladies extended their plans to take in the children of the prisoners. A law was passed by Parliament which enabled Mrs. Meredith and her associates to have the care of those children at the Princess Mary Village Home until they are sixteen years of age. This home was founded at Addlestone in 1870, and was named after the Princess Mary, Duchess of Teck, who aided in obtaining funds to build it. The institution takes not only the female children of criminal mothers, but also little girls who are likely to drift into a career of crime. It is conducted on the cottage plan, each little house having ten inmates and a house mother to superintend it, and being complete in its own arrangements. There are eighteen cottages, a large, generous school-room, a small infirmary for the sick, and a little church. About two hundred children of criminals and the unfortunate class are here cared for. Instead of allowing them to drift away and to perpetuate vice, crime, and immorality, they are taken entirely from their old surroundings, and new influences of knowledge and purity are thrown about them. There is no part of Mrs. Meredith's mission which has such hope for the future and is so valuable in results as this preventive work among the children.

There are also a woman's medical mission (1882), a Christian woman's union, a girls' school, and a deaconess house in Jerusalem under the control of the same association. How it arose is well intimated by the following extract from a letter from Mrs. Meredith to the author, dated March 9, 1889: "You will know that my course has been progressive with regard to the mode of congregating the women who joined me in working. At first we merely came together daily from our own homes, as those who make a business concern do. Then to spare time and money we began to live together. The next step was to admit useful and devoted women who had no property, and to form an association with degrees of membership. When we found ourselves becoming a corporation of importance, and having combined to acquire property and to found institutions, we invited the help and counsel of some men of known eminence. Our institutions are all branches of a parent stock, and are now placed in the charge of these good men, and we have taken the name of the Church of England Woman's Missionary Association. I am daily persuaded of the value of such organizations."


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