Dora B. Montefiore, New Age February 1903

Women’s Interests

Genius of the people.


Source: New Age, p.139, 26 February 1903;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.


Another illustration of the disconcerting fact that much of the genius lying dormant in the children of the people in England is too often, for lack of facilities of development, allowed to run to waste, or to depend for its recognition on the chance help of generous amateurs, is afforded by the sensational playing of the English girl violinist, Miss Marie Hall. A slight, still angular child, with the frail physique of too many of the daughters of the people, whose early years are a constant struggle against conditions bordering closely on starvation, Miss Hall, of whose phenomenal success as a violinist all London is now talking, was only a few years ago roaming the country with her father, an itinerant harpist. When playing in the streets of Birmingham, a professional violinist recognised the extraordinary talent of the little girt, and gave her free tuition for three years. This start enabled her, at the age of fourteen, to win, the Wessely Prize at the Royal Academy, but as her father had not the means to keep her whilst she studied in London, the Scholarship had reluctantly to be abandoned. Eventually some generous amateurs paid the girl’s expenses at Prague, where she studied under Sviek, the teacher of Kubelik and of Kocean. Seviek is said to have declared that Miss Hall is absolutely the most gifted pupil he has ever had, which high appreciation is confirmed be the girl violinist’s rendering of Paganini’s concerto, which has tested the technique and powers of expression of many an older player. Diderot once wrote: “It is cruel and absurd to condemn to ignorance the lower orders of society, for there are ten thousand chances to one that genius, talent, and virtue will be found rather in the cottage than in the palace.” Nowadays we should express this thought more exactly, and more scientifically, by saying that selection gives better and more certain results when applied to the masses than when applied to a restricted number of individuals. But do we in our collective capacity take the lesson to heart?

Emigration of Women to Our Colonies.

I am glad to welcome an organised attempt to give women training which will fit them for up-country life in our colonies. The advisory council (amongst whom I note the names of the Hon. Mrs. Lyttleton, and of Mrs. Fawcett, both trusted suffragists), write jointly to the effect that “The future well-being of our colonies demands that women of higher cultivation should carry forward in the new lands the best traditions of English home life .... Two points in colonial emigration are imperative; the selection of the right woman, and training to equip her for her new life. We propose to receive at a newly-formed colonial training branch of the well-known Women’s Horticultural College, Swanley, Kent, suitable students, who desire to try their fortunes in the colonies, whether as independent workers or as joining relatives, and to teach them some essentials for a prosperous colonial country life, such as gardening, dairying, poultry work, cooking, laundry, simple sanitation and nursing. Students may take up two or three subjects for short periods, or can receive an all-round training in the full one year’s course. For the latter a diploma will be awarded.” Let me add one word here for the future guidance of women who may think a taking advantage of this training, and who may be doubtful how to decide on their future home. In an article in the Morning Post of February 19, a writer on colonial affairs remarks: “Australia is suffering more perhaps than any other division of the Empire from the want of an adequate population, and every effort should be put forward to induce British men and women to go out to the other hemisphere, there to found families, and assist in the working out of a territory, rich in every way.” “Give us of your best,” I heard said the other day by an Australian. “Not only does Australia ask us for our best in the way of trained and educated women, but it will also give those women, who make it their home, of its best, inasmuch as it grants them a share equal with men in the making of the laws under which they have to live.” This should be the test point with women in weighing the advantages offered to them by the different colonies asking for the help of trained and cultured women.

A Book to be Recommended.

In connection with the an important question for women of the choice and preparation of foods, I should like to recommend a most practical little book by Mary Halliday, which has just been published by Horace Marshall, entitled Marriage on 200 a year. The title is the only part of the book with which I have a slight inclination to quarrel, as it might prevent bachelor women of small incomes, or widows with reduced incomes, from purchasing it; though I can assure them it would be of great practical use to either class of women. Mrs. Halliday’s recipes for cheap and wholesome meat dishes are only rivalled by her sensible appreciation and recommendation of oatmeal, of vegetarian soups, and of the French woman’s never-failing pot-au-feu. The little book, which costs only a shilling, is, however, by no means only a cookery book, but a very human document from the all-round point of view of the housewife; treating of the general principles of cookery, the ever-vexed question of the domestic help, the week’s work, the family washing, of hospitality, and with some quite excellent thumb-nail hints about health. She goes to the root of the matter as to the low state of physique amongst the children of our working-classes, when she says “Wrong and foolish feeding is probably at the root of much of the delicacy prevailing among young children at the present day. Either through ignorance (which can be remedied) or carelessness (which is unpardonable) they are often most unsuitably fed. If we want our children to have grit and backbone, oatmeal, in one form or another, should be part of the daily regime.... The problem is not only that of feeding one’s family cheaply but healthily; to provide a generous and sufficient diet at the minimum of cost, and also, if one is wise, at the minimum of trouble.”

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.