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HE attention of the Council of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science was forcibly called, in the month of November, 1859, to the necessity for providing new channels for the remunerative employment of women. No attempt at any interference with the natural laws regulating the supply of labour or the rate of wages was recommended to the Council, or for a moment entertained by them. They were well aware that any such attempt would be equally foolish and futile. But it appeared to them that the miserable condition of the women employed in several branches of industry and the artificial obstacles raised to any extension of their employments by social prejudice or trade jealousies, certainly called for inquiry, and, if that were found practicable, for redress. A Committee was accordingly appointed to inquire and report on this question, and the Council, convinced of the good that would result from enlisting the aid of educated and intelligent women in the cause of the less fortunate of their sex, resolved that this Committee should be constituted of an equal number of gentlemen and ladies, of whom the latter
especially were chosen for the practical interest they had already shown in the subject.
The Committee, which was ultimately merged in the Society for Promoting the Industrial Employment of Women, collected a considerable amount of evidence, and among the rest they were informed of the suitableness of the printing trade—at least in some of its branches—for women, and of the various attempts that had been made to introduce female labour into the business of compositors. The Committee were satisfied by the testiinony of experienced persons, both master printers and compositors, that such an employment, requiring chiefly a quick eye, a ready hand, lightness of touch, and steady application to work,—involving no exposure to weather-no hard labour, properly so called,was suitable for women, and that the failures hitherto experienced in the attempts to introduce them into the trade were owing to exceptional and preventable causes.
Such was the opinion of the Committee; and Miss Parkes was so convinced of the opening afforded by the printing trade, and that nothing but sufficient capital and a fair trial were required for success, that she purchased a small press, in order to make herself practically acquainted with the art of printing, and capable of assisting in the direction of any
* The members of the Committee were :The Earl of Shaftesbury.
Mrs. Jameson, The Hon. Arthur Kinnaird, M.P. Miss Bessie Parkes. Mr. Edward Akroyd.
Miss Adelaide Procter. Mr. G. W. Hastings.
Miss Boucherett. Mr. Horace Mann.
Miss Isa Craig Mr. W. Strickland Cookson.
Miss Emily Faithfull.
effort that might be made for training female compositors At this press I had the opportunity of working, and when some weeks' assiduous labour, though of course it taught me little, had satisfied me that any intelligent industrious girl, under a proper apprenticeship, could earn her living as a compositor, I resolved on opening an office for the purpose of employing women in the trade, and thus giving tangible purpose to our idea. A gentleman who is well known for his efforts in the cause of social improvement offered to share the risk of starting such an office and of giving a fair trial to the experiment, on condition that I would make myself responsible for the conduct of the business. With this encouragement, the Victoria Press was opened on the 25th of March, 1860; and though many unforeseen difficulties arose, and though we met with some disappointments, considerable progress was made during the first year, as evidenced by the work we managed to get through, among which I may be permitted to mention the printing of the English
Woman's Journal, and of the “Transactions” (an octavo volume of 900 pages) of the Association for the Promotion of Social Science.
In the early part of this year it was suggested to me that I should publish a volume as a choice specimen of the skill attained by my compositors.* The idea has been realized in the pages of this work, enriched by contributions from many of the first authors of the day, and, by Her gracious per
* The initial letters, &c., &c., of this Volume have been designed by a lady intimately connected with our work, and engraved by women, some of whom are pupils in the Female School of Art in Queen Square.
mission, dedicated to Her Majesty, whose royal approval had been already signified to the undertaking which bears Her
I trust that the VICTORIA REGIA will be found a not unworthy record of the literature adorning the rule of a Sovereign who has known how to unite the dignified discharge of public duties with a constant regard for the cares of domestic life; and who has thus borne a noble and enduring testimony to the value of woman's intellect and heart.
Among the contributions to this Volume will be found one by the late Mrs. Jameson, whose name will be always remembered by those interested in the employment and elevation of women, as that of the writer who first pleaded their cause before the public, and the friend whose wise and faithful counsels were only ended by her death.
In conclusion I can only say that the generous aid and encouragement I have received from so many quarters, support me in the midst of no little toil and difficulty, and confirm my resolution to carry on the work I have undertaken to permanent success.