Chapter 1 sets the scene of the working parties
for Home Missions. It contrasts the happy sewing of the Meadowland vicarage gathering of Friendly Girls & the
vicarage Bible Class with the plight of the working girls of Haggerston: button-hole makers and boot-makers. [Baby
John and Rose and Lavender] Is cheap fashion and finery such a good thing when those who make it are not
paid a living wage? Mention is made of the Mission of the Good Shepherd, founded by the Sisters of St. Saviour's Priory and
of Temperance nights. The Christmas banquet of the Young Woman's Help Society is described.
Chapter 2 begins with a decription of a beautiful
blue tea gown which Aunt Sophy purchased for E. W. and about which she feels guilty remembering the trials of the seamstresses
who made it. She describes a holiday house for such women at Babbacombe, near Torquay in South Devon and encourages
the working party to send a stamped envelope to Miss Skinner, Bayfield, Babbacombe, for more information.
Chapter 3 describes the bitter cold of January
and details the Feast of the Epiphany at the Mission of the Good Shepherd for 60 men, "blokes... the undeserving."
Mention is made of the "blighting influence of Free Trade" and the great fire at Lynes wood-yard in November 1883. The
men seen at the Worship Street Police court are described as well as the sport of pigeon racing and the temptations of the Brittania
Theatre. The threat of the Radical club and Russian Nihilists are overthrown.
Chapter 4 begins with a bit of humor in the descriptions
of coughs and colds [Miss Toosey's Mission, Gay] and the cozy corner of Meadowland's alms houses and transitions
to the desparate situations of those who are "friendless, penniless, and hopeless" in London. Mention
is made of the Newport Market Refuge, the Industrial School for Boys (located first at Long Acre but recently moved to a new site
"in Coburg Road, Westminster, close to the police-station in Rochester Road, and immediately behind the Grendier Guards Hospital"
where tailoring is taught. The school's excellent band provides musicians to many regiments of Her Majesty's
service. Some accomplishments of the boys are praised and support is encouraged from "any who have dear, manly English
boys of their own, sons or brothers."
Chapter 5 begins with Aunt Sophy's trouble
breathing and Psalm 150 then provides an account of a visit to a cousin in the country village of Martel
in Somersetshire [the setting for Miss Toosey's Mission] where E.W. attends a vicarage working party with
"country town young ladies sitting round, with smiling faces and busy fingers, making little frocks and pinafores and
listening to Lowder's Life and short accounts of East London work read aloud." The working party
is followed by a factory tea at the factory "school room" where effort is made to teach literacy, housewifely skills,
and moral sensiblities to the factory girls. The life, character, and dress of the workers is outlined
[Baby John] as is "the silk work" that went into the blue tea gown of Chapter 2.
Chapter 6 focuses on the plight of the Post-Office
army and the work St. Martin's League, begun by Rev. A.H. Stanton, Curate of St. Alban's. The four London houses
and a sea-side holiday house at St. Leonard's provide rest and help but "will you believe it? This Jubilee year
of the Queen will most likely be the last of St. Martin's League."
Chapter 7 compares the lovely gardens of Meadowland
where toadstools spring up overnight to the housing developments of "Plaistow-on-the-Marsh, in Essex, over the River
Lea" where the Metropolitan Board has no authority. This squalid, dismal place, with the main sewer of London running
through it is home to "the noxious, ill-smelling trades which London would no longer tolerate in its midst... manure
works, bone works, tar distilleries, an chemical works of various kinds pour their filth into the River Lea and pollute the
atmosphere for miles around. The small-pox hospital is erected there too." The Victoria and Albert Docks attract
a large population but there is not enough work for the "unskilled artisans chornically out of work" whose "wives
and children live or die as they can." The efforts of the Church (St. Mary's, St. Luke's ) to help those
caught in the situation are limned. Sunday Schools, "rabbit hutch schools, two missions and The Christian Evidences
Society do battle with the Cromwell Club and Atheists in "London over the Border" described by Dickens in Household Words.
Chapter 8 sets a happier tone than the previous
chapter as E.W. and Aunt Sophy bring two babies from London to "The Buttercups" near Twyford on the Great Western
Railway about an hour from Paddington. There rescued children are taught 'to play and to laugh" and "delicate"
children are made healthy. "There were victims of Board School education, over-worked brains and St. Vitus's dance."
Mention is made of Westminister Hospital, The
Charity Organization Society, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruely to Children. E.W. urges Kate to
consider whether they cannot do something similar in Meadowland.
Chapter 9 begins with a memory of a January day
in Torquay and the funeral service at St. John's for Canon Robinson where came"the fishermen of Brixham with
a wreath of seaweed" that was given a place of honor among the white flowers that filled the chancel. E.W. then urges
Kate and the working party to take an interest in St. Andrew's Waterside Mission at Great Grimsby and the Fisher Lad's Institute.
Having described the character and troubles of the young fishermen, E.W. suggests the need for a Mission ship to the North
Sea and urges monetary support.
Chapter 10 is a visit to "St. Catherine's
Home for patients with advanced consumption at Ventnor.... It is open to patients of all religious denominations.
Neither Roman Catholics nor Dissenters being expected to attend services in the pretty little chapel... nursed by the
Sisters from St. Margaret's, East Grimstead, hospital trained and very experienced..." "Consumptions is so dreadfully
common... It is not only the trades that are known to be injurious to health, the steel-grinders, stone masons, glass
cutters, millers, etc. but the long hurse in hot work-rooms and bad air make lung disease very common among dressmakers and
workgirls, clerks, and shopmen, and the exposure to weather in other occupations, such as the young postment... adds to the
long list of victims who fall yearly before this fatal disease." The home is in need of expansion to receive twenty
rather than twelve patients, a ward for children, a dining hall. "Better accommodations for the Sisters and a garden
for the patients. I do not think that we, who in almost every family, have a sweet and tender memory" of someone
who has died of consumption "will let them want the means to carry out these improvements."
Chapter 11 concludes the book with the account
of a September visit to Oxfordshire where the community and church provision of the poor paints a pretty picture when compared
with the desparate needs presented by the earlier letters regarding Plaistow and Grimsby. An encounter with a "gipsie"
caravan enroute to St. Giles Fair at Oxford "gave a great picturesqueness to the neighbourhood, and Edith made a lovely
little sketch of an encampment." The realities of gipsie life are less lovely and after describing these
hardships and difficulties, E.W. urges passage of a bill before Parliament, introduced by Mr. Smith, to require the registration
"of all gypsy vans and temporary dwellings with a view to their inspection by the sanitary authorities to prevent overcrowding
and insanitary conditions and to enable the School Board to get hold of the children who will have a pass book to enable them
to obtain admittance to any school." E.W. confesses that "there are many difficulties in working this scheme."
Throughout Letters to Our Working Party
cleanliness and education are stressed as the best means of improving the lives of the poor and of teaching morality and godliness. E.W.
asserts that faith requires action. She advocates that the true work of Christian and Church is social justice--the
care of the poor, the relief of suffering. She is in fact an early proponent of a social gospel.