Monitorial Schools for Girls
Since my last Report dated Jan. 1814, I have been establishing schools and qualifying Mistresses at Halifax, Rotherham, Birmingham, and Dudley, in the whole accounting to seven Schools, containing 1000 poor girls ... At Rotherham the School consists entirely of those children who attend the Established Church; 40 of them are clothed, and the expenses defrayed by a Charity Sermon preached at the Church annually for that purpose. Those girls who have been in the School for a certain time, and attend regularly, and conduct themselves with propriety, are recommended to service; several have been already sent out, are in comfortable situations, and esteemed as good and useful servants. ...
Before I left the Birmingham School many of the girls had been through the working classes; all were advanced in reading; several could write a fair hand, and had made a considerable progress in arithmetic. Work had been taken into the School, and a number were employed in making a set of fine linen. One of the Schools organized at Birmingham is an Evening School for 50 young women who are occupied in the manufactories during the day. Several who at the commencement of the School did not know a letter, could read a chapter in the Bible before I left: their progress in writing and the work was very satisfactory.
The first School I organized in Dudley was opened for public inspection last week; a number of ladies and gentlemen attended, and were astonished on observing the rapid improvement of the children in the short space of six weeks, as well as highly gratified by their neat appearance and orderly habits. One little child in particular excited considerable interest amongst the visitors; she is only six years of age, reads in the sixth class, writes words of one syllable, has been through five classes of work, and can say the Multiplication Table with her fingers quite perfect. ...
In manufacturing towns I have invariably found the children in a most disorderly and neglected state: they are often sent out at the early age of six years to assist towards their own support, and I fear are thereby too frequently exposed to the society of those whose evil examples tend but to poison the infant, and blight the tender flower of youthful benevolence.
I have been informed that many of these little children can earn from three to six shillings per week; which is a serious consideration with the parents, especially when there is a large family, and that it would probably be a constant barrier to their regular attendance at School. In order to prevent this, my first object has been to endeavour to interest the parents as much as possible in the future welfare of their children, by pointing out the incomparable advantages of education to their present weekly earnings; and further to convince them, I have ever made it a rule to invite them to see the School, to explain to them every part of the System, and show them the rapid progress made by their children in the short space of a few weeks. I assure you it is scarcely possible to imagine a scene more truly interesting. One mother will hand to another her child's writing, assuring her she could not form a letter when she came: and another will show the specimens of her daughter's work; whilst some are eagerly inspecting the medals worn by theirs, and with a smile of satisfaction will inquire, 'What has my girl done to merit this?' I then give them the Rules of the School, urge the necessity of their children attending constantly, and inquire if there are any without Bibles. If there are, they leave their names, and proper means are taken by the Ladies to supply them with the same, while with tears of gratitude they return, 'God bless you!" I believe I may venture to add that numberless poor, very poor parents are now making the meritorious sacrifice of their children's weekly earnings for the advantages of their Education. I am, Sir,
Yours very respectfully,
Ann Eliza Springmann.
Source: Ann Springmann to Joseph Fox, Dudley, November, 1814, in the BFSS, Report ... November, 1814 (London, 1815), pp. 11-16.