Hey all, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you had a wonderful festive season and are enjoying your 2019 so far.
This week I visited the magnificent Ladies of Quality & Distinction exhibition at the fantastic Foundling Museum in London. The exhibition, part of a vast programme of displays marking 100 years of the Representation of the People’s Act 1918 in the UK, reveals stories about the incredible women that established, worked at and lived in the hospital. Like much of history, the role of women has been excluded from the Hospital’s narratives, until now. The exhibition, curated by Kathleen Palmer, highlights the vital role that women played as nurses, teachers, cooks, artists, carers and supporters of the institution.
Highlight objects and stories:
1. ) Frances Flint (1839? – 1944?)
Frances Flint was, according to the 1891 census records, a foster mother who took care of some of the children from the Foundling Hospital. Records also suggest that Frances may have been illegitimate, much like the foundling children she fostered. This photograph shows Frances with children, may be some of those that she had in her care.
Frances Flint, archive photograph, c.1900, courtesy Coram.
2.) Servant’s register, 1925
This servant’s register records the reasons that staff at the Hospital gave for leaving. It also includes brief descriptions of the work the women carried out in their roles. This kind of register would have been used to give character references for new jobs.
© Coram, 1925
3.) Instructions to Wet Nurses, 1861
Jane Fisher was given these notes when she took foundling, John Harvey, into her care in 1861. It sets out the allowance that Fisher will be issued to look after the child as well as outlining the expectations of the Inspector.
Instructions to Wet Nurses, 4th February 1861, Coram/City of London, London Metropolitan Archives
4.) Letter written by Hannah Johnson, 1812
On 1st April 1812, as she entered her 20th year of service as the Foundling Hospital, Hannah Johnson wrote to the Governors of the Hospital requesting a (well deserved) pay rise. She was successful and her wages were increased to match those of the Steward, who headed the Boy’s Wing.
Letter, Hannah Johnson, 1st April 1812, © Coram
5.) Blanche Thetford (1758 – 1833)
Blanche Thetford lived at Foundling Hospital and although she was “incurably blind in both eyes” she was incredibly talented in needlework. Whilst at the Hospital she trained in music alongside another blind girl named Mercy Draper and became an incredibly talented musician. Aged 21, the Hospital employed Blanche as a singer in the Chapel, paying her 6 guineas a year to do so. As well as being a singer, she was given 10 guineas a year for “the care and assiduity of teaching music” to younger foundlings. In 1813, she was gifted £25 (the equivalent of £1,721.93 in 2019), on top of a silver teapot for her teaching work. Blanche lived at the Foundling Hospital her whole life and when she died in 1833, aged 77, she was buried in the Hospital’s Chapel.
Foundling Hospital: The Chapel, 1808, John Bluck, after Pugin & Rowlandson. Aquatint, hand-coloured.
The exhibition shines a light on some of the marvellous, hard working and life changing women who played a vital role in the running of the Foundling Hospital and the care of the children living there between 1741 – 1951. It closes on the 20th January so you only have a few more days to view it so hurry if you don’t want to miss out on these stories.
Happy Museum Musings!