Dora B. Montefiore, New Age December 1903
Source: New Age, p. 810, 17 December 1903;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Amongst the many new womenrs clubs appealing at the present moment to public favour non shadows forth a more inviting programme for the woman worker in science, literature, or art than does the Lyceum Club, the initiative for which we owe to Miss Constance Smedley (the well-known novelist), its honorary secretary. I had a pleasant hour’s chat with Miss Smedley week or two ago in her flat in Victoria, and heard from her much about the human and sympathetic aims of the club, and of its most delightful plans for the future, which cannot, naturally, be set forth in a first prospectus. The prominently novel feature about the Lyceum will be its residential accommodation for bachelor women desiring a pied-à-terre in Central London. A certain number of rooms will be set aside for permanent residential members, and will be fitted up as bed-sitting-rooms, so that occupants may be able to work in the retirement of their own “home.” Membership will be confined to women who have published any original work in Literature, journalism, Science, Art, or Music; who have University qualifications; or who are wives or daughters of distinguished men. The ordinary club rooms will be provided, including two dining-rooms, one for members only, and the other for entertaining men and women guests. For the convenience of journalists and theatre-going members there will be chafing dish suppers under the direction of an American chef. Arrangements will also be made for the use by members of private carriages and messenger service at special rates.
There is one department in contemplation in connection with the Lyceum Club which is intended permanently to benefit the literary and journalistic professions – the Information Bureau, which will be international in its character (as the membership is also to be international), and which will contain a complete register of the names and addresses of editors and publishers throughout the World, particulars of the class of work they accept, and the rates and times of payment for copy. There will also be a register of trustworthy literary agents in every country; of translators, with whom members may be put in direct communication; and a staff of linguists will be organised, who will undertake the translation of current articles and short stories. Further, there will be also available for members a register of researchers in the principal museums and libraries of Europe, America, and the Colonies; and credentials will be supplied to members travelling, in order that they may gain access to the museums and libraries of foreign cities. In order, further, to enhance the value of the club as a means of social, literary, and artistic fellowship at least two receptions will be given each year, to which distinguished guests from the literary, scientific, and artistic professions will be invited, and to which membership of the club will constitute invitation. The annual subscription will be £2 2s. for town and £1 1s. for country members, with an entrance fee of £1 1s. after the first 500 members have been admitted. When it is remembered that the club premises are to be situated near Charing Cross, that the scheme is formed with the intention of catering for the less known and less prosperous members of the literary profession, as well as for the more wealthy, and that Members from the Colonies, America, or foreign countries will have a house in London in which they may obtain introductions to their English confrères and practical help in the material details of their work, it is apparent what thoughtful and understanding minds have planned this latest departure in woman’s clubland, and how much the whole scheme is likely to help towards that solidarity among women which is doing so much to increase their usefulness and powers for good.
I am glad to see that the Daily Press is taking up the question of municipal milk supplies for infants on the lines of those initiated at St. Helen’s and at Battersea. We have long been urging their necessity in the columns of THE NEW AGE, whilst the Local Government Board Auditor has done his best to discourage those already existing by disallowing certain items in the Battersea Borough Council accounts relating to this milk supply; such items being, according to this functionary, non-remunerative! The Council has therefore appealed to the Local Government Board. We shall watch with interest the result of this appeal; and, I feel, sure, if the Battersea babies could follow the results of the working of the official mind, nourished sterilised red tape, they would do the same. £400 was all that was voted by the Council for starting the scheme, which, if allowed to be carried on, will probably be helpful in saving thousands of infant lives. The Morning Leader gives a picture of the sterilising machine, which secures the purity and wholesomeness of the milk supplied, and the result, after about two years’ trial, is that infant mortality in that borough has been reduced by about 50 per cent. But the official mind cannot conceive that this saving of life can be “remunerative.”
As an outcome of all the recent correspondence about what the City girl eats or does not eat at her midday meal, T. P.’s Weekly has an excellent article on Women’s Restaurants, asking very pertinently the question: Has the City girl any alternative, given the minuteness of her salary, than to satisfy her appetite on a diet composed principally of buns, tea, or coffee? Wages are calculated on what is known as “a standard of living;” and men assert that the woman’s standard of living is lower than that of the man’s; therefore, they decree she shall accept a lower wage in those occupations in which she competes with men and in which sex attractions do not count. “The girl,” as the writer in T.P.s says, “who has to provide food, lodgings, and clothing out of a salary which does not always reach £1 a week, and rarely exceeds thirty shillings, more often than not has to make her tea shop lunch her principal meal.” The writer therefore proposes that some enterprising women shall start cheap restaurants for women clerks, where savoury meat dishes can be procured for 6d., bouillon for 2d., and vegetables for 1d. Such restaurants, I feel sure, would be a success if the menu were sufficiently varied, but the difficulty is that so few of the won en who could and would start such a scheme on paying lines are capitalists, and capital is needed in order to make such an enterprise a commercial success.
Dora B. Montefiore.