[This passage from pages 10-13 of Farningham's most famous work, Grace Darling, appeared under the pseudonym E. Hope (London: Walter Scott, 1875).

At the time of writing these words, the largest congregation in London is mourning the loss of a woman who, Sunday by Sunday, gathered together eight hundred members of a Young Women's Bible Class, to listen while she spoke to them of things pertaining to their present and eternal welfare. And who is there but would earnestly wish such women God speed? Their work may be a little different from some of that of their sisters, but it is good work all the same. And as such it ought to be done. Why should not the labourers be allowed to proceed with their tasks without opposition and hindrance from those who look on? It cannot be denied that much of this work never would be performed if the women did not do it. Are they not right to step into vacant places, and stretch out their hands to help, when help is needed? Whether they are right or not, they certainly do not escape censure. People are ready enough to applaud a really heroic action; but if the deed be as good in itself, yet have no romance about it, the tongues of the critics are apt to say sharp things. Many women, simply because they are not courageous enough to brave the adverse opinions of those by whom they are surrounded, lose golden opportunities of distinguishing themselves. They are afraid to be singular. But this fear is no honour to the sex. A woman should be so far free and independent as to do that which she feels to be right, no matter though the right seem to call her to heights which she had not occupied before…. It does not matter very much whether or not other people are satisfied with a woman's deeds, though she cannot help wishing to please those whom she loves. But what does matter is, that she should gain the high praise of Him who sees not as man sees, and who will say even to those who imagine themselves to be in some sense failures, 'She hath done what she could'.

To study the life of any good woman is to know that she is not necessarily unable to do many things well. It used to be thought that it was a pity to educate a woman; for, if she understood two or three languages, it was not likely that she would also know how to darn stockings. And nothing can make men willing to pardon a woman's domestic deficiencies. Have not poets sung of them as nurses, wives, mothers and cooks? But no poet cares to write of them as physicians, reasoners, lecturers, or preachers . . . .

It should be borne in mind, however, that a really clever and sensible woman is able to do many things excellently. Was Mrs Fry less a good wife and able mother, because she visited prisons, and saved many of her sex from desolation and death? She had eight children, and no one doubts that each one had every care that a devoted mother could bestow upon him. Was Grace Darling less loving and obedient as a daughter, because she was so bold as not to be afraid to face death? Certainly not. And the women of today will not fill their humble positions less satisfactorily if they take every opportunity of training themselves, both physically and mentally, for whatever work may come in their way. Does not the name of Grace Darling suggest to many parents, a contrast between her life and that of their own daughters? And would not many a man be glad to know that the woman who is to sit by his side, and help or hinder him through life, had similar qualifications for her position? In a word, can Grace Darling's (sic) be trained? Is there any way of making 'the girl of the period' into a vigorously healthy, sensible, devoted, self-forgetful woman? Is it impossible, out of the material which is to be found in any of our schools and seminaries, to form characters of sterling worth and practical usefulness?


Victorian Overview Authors

Last modified 10 September 2008