Eleanor Rathbone

Letter from Eleanor Rathbone to Sophia De Morgan on social reform

17 February [c. 1890s]


Eleanor Rathbone

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My dear Mrs de Morgan


I am more sorry than surprised

at the various contents of your note.

First the business part of it. It is very

much to be regretted that the actively

benevolent are so often incorrigibly

neglectful of the exact financial

management of their schemes. They

are sanguine as to the benevolence

of others, and often bad managers.

If all philanthropists had the horror

of debt which some have, how very

much more would they accomplish.

Hearing no more from you I thought

the best way was to show Mrs Melly

your note, and she denies that

her son's £5 may be transferred

to her name and she leaves it in your


Eleanor Rathbone

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care, as I do mine – to recover it

and apply it to a nursery, or

to leave it where it is as you

may judge best, or find practicable.

Your account of the absence of

deep convictions or repentance

on the part of the young women

agrees with what I have heard

from others – and with the peculiarly

uninteresting countenances of the

women in the penitentiaries here

and I am very sorry to have

their confirmation. I hoped yours

might be less entirely such than

these must have been. I think

the nursery may prosper much

better and do more good to the young

women when entirely unconnected



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with the dormitory, as you remove

them into a new scene, where their

antecedents are unknown, and

can choose only those morally and

physically fitted for it. I feel

all the difficulty you see about the

teaching the women to view their sin

[?]. The circumstances are often

such one cannot feel them except as

[?] against, yet their share

of it small as it is produces a

degree of deterioration of nature moral

physical and spiritual which places

them below those who see for more

without excuse in other ways. It

seems God's seal of reprobation on

that particular sin, yet in men

it is allowed to pass unreproved

and I see no help for it, for women


Eleanor Rathbone

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in general are quite ignorant of

the character of their male associates

and were they to act on the

imperfect rumours that reach

them might be generally of great

injustice. I fear much religious

instruction will not answer

steady cultivation of religious

principle by the matron would seem

what would be most needed.

Whenever you are able to bring your

nursery scheme to bear we shall

feel much interested to hear of it.

I am my dear Mrs de Morgan

ever yours very truly

Eleanor Rathbone

Greenbank, Saturday February 17th