A Celebration of Women Writers

"Philanthropy for Girls in Paris." by Madame Marie Marshall (1849-).
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. 211-212.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 211] 



Every young girl, from the university down to the unfortunate girl that is left friendless and destitute, must be taught enough of domestic work that she may not be only an ornament in society, unable to provide herself with the most elementary and necessary things of material existence, to wit: a good wholesome food that will keep aloof that disease so common among you, dyspepsia.

We have heard that the highly educated girls take an interest in that part of a woman's education so neglected nowadays; let me tell you about that no less interesting class of girls, friendless and destitute, for whom there is no other way to escape starvation or a life of shame than to take up domestic service, even though they have not the remotest idea as to what will be expected from them.

Something should be done to help the helpless, and to that effect I began in Paris two years ago an experiment that bids fair to succeed.

Many of our girls in large cities are wonderfully ignorant of any kind of domestic work: the reason is: worthless parents, careless of their children's welfare, spend their time at the drinking shops or in places fully as disreputable, while the little ones are sent at an early age begging in the streets, until the habit becomes a second nature, and from such childhood grow into girlhood so pitiful to witness that I am wondering there has not been more attempts made to open to these unconscious victims of degenerated parents small shelters, where, in groups of not more than fifteen, at most, the girls could be trained as in a family for domestic work, and then placed out in worthy families. where their life would become like an Eden compared to that of earlier years.

Being connected with the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to children in Paris, I came across such cases of child misery that I was for a long time anxious to find a way to better the condition of the girls who are so unprotected in our fair land: yet I am happy to say great efforts are tending to make laws more favorable to our sex.

The class of girls of which I speak must be also trained morally and religiously, without any sectarianism, if we want the material training to bear good results: then they will become honest, intelligent women. loving the work that will enable them to go through life with head and heart uplifted. [Page 212] 

Many an appeal have I read in Paris about the necessity of starting a school for young domestics; yet when I began this new work I met with what one usually meets, i.e., incredulity, indifference, and perhaps a little ill-will; I was advocating a new system; the Old World has not yet put off its old mantle of routine.

My fifteen years spent in the United States, teaching in the public schools, where I had the honor of being a principal, had given me ideas that could not always meet with a thorough understanding on the part of some of our best women in philanthropic and Christian work, because they bore in themselves a fragrance of independence perhaps too strong.

As I said before, I only began my work two years ago, January 10, 1891. The incident that made me try it, with no help but my own modest resources, and a Guide that never fails whoever will follow him, has been related in the report to Congress of Philanthropy; I will therefore only speak here of the advantages which I think can derive from my system: Homes and not Institutions. In France our institutions keep the girls entirely away from the world in a great many cases, up to sixteen, eighteen and twenty-one years of age, letting them out exactly as unfit for the world as the young brood taking its first flight from the nest–unsteady, bewildered, as it meets the broad immensity for the first time. Many a fall is due only to the insufficient preparation and complete ignorance of the dangers to be encountered.

Domestic training schools have been started in this country, as well as in others; but whenever they bear only the character of institution they prove failures. In spite of what many say to the contrary an institution will never take the place of the home; each individual in a home can be morally and mentally trained with the greatest care. "Saving by guarding against evil," will prove far better work than rescuing, even though rescuing must not be neglected.

The family training affords many an opportunity to point out all dangers to the young girl; she is not shut up from the world, neither is she allowed to go through it unprotected; she is made wise and strong by being shown the consequences that await all those who, for one reason or another, have not shunned the flattering words, the tempting gayeties that may be offered to the poor girl now fallen, through ignorance more than evil desire.

Can that be so easily pointed out to our girls shut up and trained between the high walls of tradition and conventionalities centuries old?

Certainly not; and as the number of the friendless and destitute increases with distressing rapidity in our large centers, I believe we must elevate the standard of domestic service by elevating the moral character of those who volunteer to accept that humble calling.

Let us remember the noble characters whose names have been synonyms of loyalty and devotions to their masters.

Every year the French academy delivers one or more rewards, "Prix Montyon," to some humble, faithful, noble hearted man or woman servant who will surely receive a still better reward at the hand of the Master who came here below to serve all men

When domestic service will be better understood because better taught, then will those honored exceptions become a thing of the past, and the young girl will have a heart to honor both herself and masters by accomplishing her modest duties with a love that can only receive its impulse from above.

I expect to return to Paris and make most strenuous efforts toward carrying out my domestic work for destitute girls as a preventative work, and on the plan explained here; should I find resources and sympathy not answer my expectations, I want every Christian man and woman here to know that I am ready to do the same work wherever there are girls to be saved from danger. You only have to call on me at 38 Rue Nollet, Paris, France, or until May, 1894, care of Mr. F. A. Booth, 19 east Sixteenth street, New York.

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Mme. Marie Marshall is a native of Paris, France. She was born in 1849. Her mother moved to California to practice maternity clinics. She studied in Paris and California and has traveled in the United States, France and England. She married in San Francisco, and is the mother of a son now an ordained minister of the Gospel. She spent fifteen years of her youth in California, and lately eighteen years in France. Her special work has been in the interest of the poor and the working class in Paris, especially the young girls. Her principal literary works are referred to above. Her profession has been teacher and principal in the public schools of San Francisco and Paris; she studied art, painting and singing, teaching the latter, and lately for the benefit of a "Domestic training school for destitute girls." In religious faith she has been converted from Catholicism to Congregationalism. Her postoffice address until May, 1894, is care of Mr. F. A. Booth, 19 East Sixteenth Street, New York City.

* The full title under which the address was delivered was, "Philanthropy and Charity for girls in Paris."


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 Mark Ockerbloom.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom