The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Woman's League.

by Lady Laura Ridding.
Volume 2, no. 2, 1891/92, pg. 381-385

The Woman's League, it is well to declare at once, is no modern idea connected with political Land Leagues, Primrose Leagues, and such like nineteenth century inventions; it is rather akin to the Woman's League of which we read in German histories, that was formed in 1631 in defence of religious principles. The story of that German Woman's League is full of the quaint old-world pathos which abounds in the gossipy records of the days when the Maid of Nurnberg exercised her enchantments on heretics and rebels, and when a whole generation grew up under the black shadow of the Thirty Years' War.

The Protestant town of Lowenburg, in Silesia, during that terrible war passed into the hands of the Emperor's Roman Catholic party; and as the women of the town remained obstinately Protestant, the Town Council determined to coerce them into the desired ways of thinking, because, as their Judge Seiler remarked, "If we have been able to bring the men into the right path, why should we not be able to deal with these little creatures?" But the women of Lowenburg answered the questions by resisting all their attempts; and with Frau Seiler at their head banded themselves together into a Defence League, which won a complete victory, and left them triumphantly mistresses of the field. Armed with five hundred formidable bunches of keys hanging ready at their girdles, five hundred women, gentle and simple, rich and poor, obeyed the summons of the Council by appearing before them in serried ranks; and with brave words and unfaltering loyalty to what they believed to be the truth, they defended their faith, they fought for God's cause, and they won this victory.

Our English Woman's League is formed to defend, not our religion, but another precious inheritance which is threatened on all sides; and we fight with the same weapons of faith and prayer (though without the ruder ones of key bunches and wooden stools) as those of the German Woman's League; and we look for the same victory on our united efforts, the victory which God promises to those who fight His battles. The precious inheritance which we should save, which we should guard with all the strength that we possess, is the pure standard of morality given to the world eighteen hundred years ago by the Gospel of Christ; and which is now threatened by the attacks of Lawlessness, Greed, Sloth, three of the seven deadly sins, none the less deadly in these days because they have adapted themselves so pre-eminently to modern shapes and ideas.

Lawlessness condemns the sacredness of Marriage and the reticence of modesty as obsolete tyrannical customs.

Greed by its inadequate payment of female labour tempts its victims to supplement their miserable wages by the wages of sin.

Sloth smothers the divine instinct of motherly guardianship over child and servant in the callous hearts of women engrossed in their own selfish interests.

The evil wrought by these three sins is not a fanciful nightmare engendered in the brains of secluded dreamers, any more than it is confined within certain class or local limitations. It lowers the national standard of morality; it poisons the root of national life.

"Where do all the raindrops go to?" a child asks. From every roof, from every street-gutter, they trickle into the stream which flows into the river which flows into the sea.

"Where do all the ideas disseminate themselves which are bred by unholy thoughts, talks, sights, literature, in the habitations of 'the careless women that are at ease,' as well as in the habitations of vice and misery?" From thousands of homes they go out into the busy marts of men and infuse their deadly corruption into the nation's life.

The homes which should be the cradle of religion, where women should serve as the handmaids of the Lord, are thus made into nurseries of evil, houses of prayer made into dens of thieves.

This perversion is what the Woman's League strives to prevent. Its work lies in the home, in the school, in the workroom, in the factory; wherever women and girls come together. It aims at binding together all women whose consciences have been awakened to face the dark social problems of the time, and to realise their share of responsibility belonging to their power of influence.

It aims at helping women of every class of society to understand the need of mutual co-operation in this matter, because the general tone of morality can only be raised by individuals in their several spheres uniting to guard the sanctity of marriage, to maintain the purity of home life, and faithfully to carry out the responsibilities which the relation of parents, teachers, or employers involve.

It aims at enlisting as its members the mothers of every class; the schoolmistresses under whose charge the little ones are placed when they leave their mothers' arms; the overlookers and forewomen and upper servants who superintend the wage-earning girls; the mistresses of households beneath whose roofs they live, reminding them that wherever young lives are lived as surely as the shadow that lingers at their heels, does responsibility for their well-being attach itself to their steps, and that that responsibility falls upon the older people with whom they have to do. That responsibility is a holy trust committed to every older woman by the Great Father of all, a trust from which she dares not shrink as from a darkening cloud, but one which she should reverently receive as a faint shadowing forth of the image of His almighty arms stretched above her in blessing.

The Woman's League tries to help its members to realise, that to enable them to protect and raise and purify the lives of others, they must raise their own. The standard of character must be kept high. The powers entrusted to them by God must be held sacred, so that they miss not the mark they were meant to attain in the purifying and elevation of the great human family.

But there is a second and not less important aim that the Woman's League tries to accomplish, viz., to strengthen and extend all work done by women for women; to promote all efforts after Christian living among the poorer classes of women by mothers' meetings, mothers' unions, protection of girls, temperance work, various parochial and philanthropic societies, guilds, and other methods of influence; to stir the educated and influential women to use their influence on the tone of the society in which they move; to develop and stimulate the large amount of sympathy and kindly feeling that exists only as unfruitful sentiment in many affectionate hearts into active ministry for others.

These aims can only be accomplished co-operation with agencies already at work. The Woman's League is not fettered with multiplied rules and conditions; it is suggestive and broad in the outline of schemes that it offers, because local needs and existing organisations vary as much as the places where they are found. The Woman's League tries to make the energies that it kindles project themselves into whatever line of work is specially needed in each place where a branch of the League is formed. Preservative, preventative, rescue work, vigilance committees and shelters in the wakes and fairs; recreative evening homes for factory girls, industrial training homes, rescue shelters, mothers' unions, the Girls' Friendly Society, guilds for deepening the spiritual life, for the educated woman--these and other effects have been inspired by the starting of various branches of the Woman's League. The League acts as helper, not controller, to these various works. It makes use of their own organisations. It acts as a link between the different societies for woman's work at work in a diocese. The need of such a link is urgently felt in many dioceses; the need of such an agent for waking the dormant sense of responsibility into life and action of the many who are not workers in any society is an equally urgent want.

The Woman's League strives to do this double work. Its rules are few, its machinery simple, its subscription nominal; its adaptability makes it an instrument of great usefulness in supplying a real want of the present time.

The members promise certain obligations, which can also be had drawn up in a simpler form for the use of uneducated mothers. They pray the same prayer, and they help as they can some work for the elevation of women.


1. --To maintain the Christian law of purity as binding on all, men and women alike, and to do all that is possible to get it recognised in my family and social circle.

2. --To maintain the sanctity of the marriage bond, opposing all lax or worldly views of it.

3. --To recognise my responsibility to the young under my care, to guard and protect their purity, whether as a parent, mistress, teacher, or employer.

4. --To promise simplicity of living, and to discountenance unsuitable amusements, immodest fashions, literature and conversation.

A. --To pray that God by His Holy Spirit will purify our hearts and lives.

B. --To help in some form by personal service, money, or active sympathy, some work for the elevation of Women.


O God, whose blessed Son was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil, and make us the sons of God and heirs of eternal life; Grant us, we beseech Thee, that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves even as He is pure; that, when He shall appear again with power and great glory, we may be made like unto Him in His eternal and glorious kingdom; where with Thee, O Father, and Thee, O Holy Ghost, He liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. Amen

The publications of the Woman's League and all other particulars can be had by applying to the Honorary Secretary, Miss C. Gladstone, 28, Eccleston Street, London, W., who will be glad to give information about its practical working in dioceses and places where it is established.

Typed by Blossom Barden, Feb 2013