A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Tempted Woman." by Mrs. Isabel Wing Lake (1851-)
Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 574-575.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 574] 

THE TEMPTED WOMAN.

By MRS. ISABEL WING LAKE.

MRS. ISABEL WING LAKE.
When a detached corps of "Wellington's" army sent a message to him, asking for reinforcements, the reply came back, "None to spare!" Later the general rode down to cheer them by his presence, and the shout arose, "There's the commander himself; better than a whole battalion!" I have been laboring for the past six years among the "tempted women" of Chicago, but of late, for a few months at least, I have been presenting this great matter (great in point of numbers, great in density of sin, great in the need of this suffering class), to the churches, and asking for reinforcements–Christian women as workers in this deserted field. But again and again have I been met by the response, "None to spare, none to spare!" until I have had to look up and confess, "Oh, my Father, Thou art better than a whole battalion, and I will leave with Thee this band of Christian women, to have planted in their hearts a hunger so deep and strong to see this awful social cancer wiped out of our land, that ere long they will join the ranks!" Why is it, oh, my sisters, that this branch of work in the vineyard is so spurned, so ignored by the Church of God?

As I look upon this grand assembly of representative women I wonder how many of them have ever spent an hour–one single hour–of their lives in digging out from the debris of superstition, rebellion, lying, theft, swearing, drinking, and often murder, these misguided, imprisoned sisters of ours; prisoners often to the chain of circumstances that they can not break without our help, and they will sink lower each day if we do not throw out the life-line. Jean Ingelow says, "What if she did strive to mend and none of you believed her strife? What if this sinner wept and none of you comforted her?" I feel there is no sin in the category of crimes that carries with it such a trail of woes. I do not wonder that the Bible says, "Whoredome and wine take away the heart;" and need we question when we find it a difficult matter to redeem an abandoned woman when the very heart is eaten out? I have asked myself when in the presence of one of these poor besotted creatures if there were left anything but the animal. I did not know where to touch her and, indeed, I never can, with any permanent results, until that woman has a new heart to commence life with, in which there can be no seed of the old appetite left; and God must do it, I can not. I do not know any other way. I have followed cunningly devised plans of wiser heads; I have run after the methods of institutions of reform; I have joined myself to the philan- [Page 575]  thropic leaders, but to no avail, only to find myself afloat, with these poor, drowning sufferers clutching for life to my garments; and I could not pull them to shore. But today I am glad, so glad to tell you we have found a way, the only one I have ever seen, to really rescue from a life of shame these girls, and that is to love them. Yes, we may love their sin to death. That great man, Talfourd, delivering his final verdict to the jury, in these dying words said: "What the masses want is not kindness, but sympathy." In my efforts at one time to point a frenzied woman up to better things, she said to me: "Mrs. Lake, if you can, go from shore to shore and tell the people the way to save us is to love us." I believe this to be the magic key to success in the work.

The life in Chicago does not differ materially from that in New York, St. Louis, Denver, San Francisco, etc. In Leadville I found it carried on more openly than elsewhere. In Washington, with "principalities and powers," it is rampant. But I have felt so earnestly that if the Church of God would everywhere put her hand upon it as a part of her "home missionary" work, its downfall would be sure. They say to me, "they never stand;" "so few are rescued." This very argument is accusative. Drop the question, oh Church of the living Christ, because it is not solved, because it is a most difficult one to handle? No, no! If this post is held by the arch-enemy of our souls, may it not be for the very reason of our inactivity in the matter? Are we guiltless then of the blood of our sister in the gutter? Is it none of our business that she lies groveling there? Let the church bombard these forts and take them all for God, and at any cost, each church sending one woman, at least, into this work to report the awful condition of things to the Christian women of our country, willingly ignorant of the entrapping snare, and they will not longer attire themselves in flotsam and jetsam, meeting once a month to regulate work for mission workers hundreds of miles away; but would themselves, with ungloved hands, be active missionaries; not deserting foreign fields–oh no, do not misunderstand me–but do this first, and then know better how to feel for our far-away co-laborers.

Last year in our sin-sick city of Chicago alone, there came under the care of our police matron, women and children numbering over thirty-one thousand. This is startling; but visit our hospitals and reformatories, and examine for yourselves the formidable facts. Let them from their beds of pain in the hospital, or the few remaining days of their lives at the poor-house, pour into your ears their tale of woe. Then, mother, fall upon your knees and plead for mercy in that you never knew before what you might do for other mothers' daughters. Shall we not be more faithful in this matter, faithful to the community, faithful to our sons and daughters, faithful to our God in the solemn vows in which we are pledged to His service? I wish I might tell you of some most heart-rendering cases that have come under my observation, but if we had great cathedral-like souls that would soar up and up until we were in touch with God in this pressing matter, you would know it all. I leave the matter in your hands. Do with it as you will. Know only that the answer will come back to you if you will but honestly ask, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"


[Page 574] 

Mrs. Isabel Wing Lake is a native of Monroe, Mich. She was born in the year 1851. Her parents were Judge Warner Wing and Eliza Anderson Wing. She was educated at Monroe Female Seminary, and graduated in a collegiate course afterward. She also attended one year a German school. She has traveled throughout American. She married Charles C. Lake, of Chicago, in 1877. Her special work has been in the interest of tempted women. Her principal literary works are varied newspaper contributions. The aim of Mrs. Lake's life is to make an open door for erring women, so that the victim of impurity and of drink may know that there is womanly tenderness and help awaiting her–the comforts of home and the prayerful counsels of true friends, who are interested in the fullness of their souls in her eternal salvation. In religious faith Mrs. Lake is a Baptist. Her postoffice address is No. 3441 Calumet Avenue, Chicago, Ill.

[Next]

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Mary Hitchcock.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom