With us there is no compulsion. If any girl wishes to remain, she remains. If she wishes to go, she goes. No one is detained a day or an hour longer than they choose to stay. Yet our experience shows that, as a rule, they do not run away. Much more restless and thoughtless and given to change, as a class, than men, the girls do not, in any considerable numbers, desert. The average of our London Homes, for the last three years, gives only 14 per cent. as leaving on their own account, while for the year 1889 only 5 per cent. And the entire number, who have either left or been dismissed during that year, amounts only to 13 per cent. on the whole.
IV.--They would not work. Of course, to such as had for years been leading idle lives, anything like work and exhaustive labour would be very trying and wearisome, and a little patience and coaxing might be required to get them into the way of it. Perhaps some would be hopelessly beyond salvation in this respect, and, until the time comes, if it ever does arrive, when the Government will make it a crime for an abled-bodied man to beg when there is an opportunity for him to engage in remunerative work, this class will wander abroad preying upon a generous public. It will, however, only need to be known that any man can obtain work if he wants it, for those who have by their liberality maintained men and women in idleness to cease doing so. And when it comes to this pass, that a man cannot eat without working, of the two evils he will choose the latter, preferring labour, however unpleasant it may be to his tastes, to actual starvation.
It must be borne in mind that the penalty of certain expulsion, which all would be given to understand would be strictly enforced would have a good influence in inducing the idlest to give work a fair trial, and once at it should not despair of conquering the aversion altogether, and eventually being able to transform and pass these once lazy loafers as real industrious members of Society.
Again, any who have fears on this point may be encouraged by contrasting the varied and ever-changing methods of labour we should pursue, with the monotonous and uninteresting grind of many of the ordinary employments of the poor, and the circumstances by which they are surrounded.
Here, again, we fall back upon our actual experience in reclamation work. In our Homes for Saving the Lost Women we have no difficulty of getting them to work. The idleness of this section of the social strata has been before referred to; it is not for a moment denied, and there can be no question, as to its being the cause of much of their poverty and distress. But from early morn until the lights are out at night, all is a round of busy, and, to a great extent, very uninteresting labour; while the girls have, as a human inducement, only domestic service to look forward to--of which they are in no way particularly enamoured--and yet here is no mutiny, no objection, no unwillingness to work; in fact they appear well pleased to be kept continually at it. Here is a report that teaches the same lesson.
A small Bookbinding Factory is worked in connection with the Rescue Homes in London. The folders and stitchers are girls saved from the streets, but who, for various reasons, were found unsuitable for domestic service. The Factory has solved the problem of employment for some of the most difficult cases. Two of the girls at present employed there are crippled, while one is supporting herself and two young children.
While learning the work they live in the Rescue Homes, and the few shillings they are able to earn are paid into the Home funds. As soon as they are able to earn 12s. a week, a lodging is found for them (with Salvationists, if possible), and they are placed entirely upon their own resources. The majority of girls working at this trade in London are living in the family, and 6s., 7s., and 8s. a week make an acceptable addition to the Home income; but our girls who are entirely dependent upon their own earnings must make an average wage of 12s. a week at least. In order that they may do this we are obliged to pay higher wages than other employers. For instance, we give from 2 1/2d. to 3d. a thousand more than the trade for binding small pamphlets; nevertheless, after the Manager, a married man, is paid, and a man for the superintendence of the machines, a profit of about #500 has been made, and the work is improving. They are all paid piecework.
Eighteen women are supporting themselves in this way at present, and conducting themselves most admirably. One of their number acts as forewoman, and conducts the Prayer Meeting at 12.30, the Two-minutes' Prayer after meals, etc. Their continuance in the factory is subject to their good behaviour--both at home as well as at work. In one instance only have we had any trouble at all, and in this solitary case the girl was so penitent she was forgiven, and has done well ever since. I think that, without exception, they are Salvation Soldiers, and will be found at nearly every meeting on the Sabbath, etc. The binding of Salvation Army publications-- "The Deliverer," "All the World," the Penny Song Books, etc., almost keep us going. A little outside work for the end of the months is taken, but we are not able to make any profit generally, it is so badly paid.
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