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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Baroness Burdett-Coutts

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This building she presented to the city of London, and in acknowledgment of the munificent gift, the Common Council presented her, July, 1872, in a public ceremony, the freedom of the city, an uncommon honor to a woman. It was accompanied by a complimentary address, enclosed in a beautiful gold casket with several compartments. One bore the arms of the Baroness, while the other seven represented tableaux emblematic of her noble life, "Feeding the Hungry," "Giving Drink to the Thirsty," "Clothing the Naked," "Visiting the Captive," "Lodging the Homeless," "Visiting the Sick," and "Burying the Dead." The four cardinal virtues, Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice, supported the box at the four corners, while the lid was surmounted by the arms of the city.

The Baroness made an able response to the address of the Council, instead of asking some gentleman to reply for her. Women who can do valuable benevolent work should be able to read their own reports, or say what they desire to say in public speech, without feeling that they have in the slightest degree departed from the dignity and delicacy of their womanhood.

Two years later, 1874, Edinburgh, for her many charities, also presented the Baroness the freedom of the city. Queen Victoria, three years before this, in June, 1871, had made her a peer of the realm.

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In Spitalfields, London, where the poverty was very great, she started a sewing-school for adult women, and provided not only work for them, but food as well, so that they might earn for themselves rather than receive charity. To furnish this work, she took contracts from the government. From this school she sent out nurses among the sick, giving them medical supplies, and clothes for the deserving. When servants needed outfits, the Baroness provided them, aiding in all ways those who were willing to work. All this required much executive ability.

So interested is she in the welfare of poor children, that she has converted some of the very old burying-grounds of the city, where the bodies have long since gone back to dust, into playgrounds, with walks, and seats, and beds of flowers. Here the children can romp from morning till night, instead of living in the stifled air of the tenement houses. In old St. Pancras churchyard, now used as a playground, she has erected a sundial as a memorial to its illustrious dead.

Not alone does Lady Burdett-Coutts build churches, and help women and girls. She has fitted hundreds of boys for the Royal Navy; educated them on her training-ships. She usually tries them in a shoe-black brigade, and if they show a desire to be honest and trustworthy, she provides homes, either in the navy or in some good trade.

When men are out of work, she encourages them in various ways. When the East End weavers had become reduced to poverty by the decay of trade, she furnished funds for them to emigrate to Queensland, with their families. A large number went together, and formed a prosperous and happy colony, gratefully sending back thanks to their benefactor. They would have starved, or, what is more probable, gone into crime in London; now they were contented and satisfied in their new home.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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