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0105_001E Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Baroness Burdett-Coutts

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When Thomas Coutts was eighty-four he married for the second time, a well-known actress, Harriet Mellon, who for seven years, till his death, took excellent care of him. He left her his whole fortune, amounting to several millions, feeling, perhaps, that he had provided sufficiently for his daughters at their marriage, by giving them a half-million each. But Harriet Mellon, with a fine sense of honor, felt that the fortune belonged to his children. Though she married five years later the Duke of St. Albans, twenty-four years old, about half her own age, at her death, in ten years, she left the whole property, some fifteen millions, to Mr. Coutts' granddaughter, Angela Burdett. Only one condition was imposed,--that the young lady should add the name of Coutts to her own.

Miss Angela Burdett-Coutts became, therefore, at twenty-three, the sole proprietor of the great Coutts banking-house, which position she held for thirty years, and the owner of an immense fortune. Very many young men manifested a desire to help care for the property, and to share it with her, but she seems from the first to have had but one definite life-purpose,--to spend her money for the good of the human race. She had her father's strength of character, was well educated, and was a friend of royalty itself. Alas, how many young women, with fifteen million dollars in hand, and the sum constantly increasing, would have preferred a life of display and self-aggrandizement rather than visiting the poor and the sorrowing!

Baroness Burdett-Coutts is now over seventy, and for fifty years her name has been one of the brightest and noblest in England, or, indeed, in the world. Crabb Robinson said, she is "the most generous, and delicately generous, person I ever knew."

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Her charities have extended in every direction. Among her first good works was the building of two large churches, one at Carlisle, and another, St. Stephen's, at Westminster, the latter having also three schools and a parsonage. But Great Britain did not require all her gifts. Gospel work was needed in Australia, Africa, and British America. She therefore endowed three colonial bishoprics, at Adelaide, Cape Town, and in British Columbia, with a quarter of a million dollars. In South Australia she also provided an institution for the improvement of the aborigines, who were ignorant, and for whom the world seemed to care little.

She has generously aided her own sex. Feeling that sewing and other household work should be taught in the national schools, as from her labors among the poor she had seen how often food was badly cooked, and mothers were ignorant of sewing, she gave liberally to the government for this purpose. Her heart also went out to children in the remote districts, who were missing all school privileges, and for these she arranged a plan of "travelling teachers," which was heartily approved by the English authorities. Even now in these later years the Baroness may often be seen at the night-schools of London, offering prizes, or encouraging the young men and women in their desire to gain knowledge after the hard day's work is done. She has opened "Reformatory Homes" for girls, and great good has resulted.

Like Peabody, she has transformed some of the most degraded portions of London by her improved tenement houses for the poor. One place, called Nova Scotia gardens,--the term "gardens" was a misnomer,--she purchased, tore down the old rookeries where people slept and ate in filth and rags, and built tasteful homes for two hundred families, charging for them low and weekly rentals. Close by she built Columbia Market, costing over a million dollars, intended for the convenience of small dealers and people in that locality, where clean, healthful food could be procured. She opened a museum and reading-room for the neighborhood, and brought order and taste out of squalor and distress.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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