Asylum for Discharged Female Convicts.

Asylum for Discharged Female Convicts.

  The ladies of the Prison Association have been, for some time, engaged in the endeavor to procure funds for establishing this asylum. They have met, thus far, with little success; but, touched by the position of several women, who, on receiving their discharge, were anxiously waiting in hope there would be means provided to save them from return to their former suffering and polluted life, they have taken a house and begun their good work in faith that Heaven must take heed that such an enterprise may not fail, and touch the hearts of men to aid it.

  They have taken a house and secured the superintendence of an excellent woman. There are already six women under her care. But this house is unprovided with furniture or the means of securing food for body and mind to these unfortunates during the brief novitiate which gives them so much to learn and unlearn.

  The object is to lend a helping hand to the many who show a desire of reformation, but have hitherto been inevitably repelled into infamy by the lack of friends to procure them honest employment, and a temporary refuge till it can be procured. Efforts will be made to instruct them how to break up bad habits and begin a healthy course for body and mind.

  The house has in it scarcely any thing; it is a true Lazarus establishment, asking for the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table. Old furniture would be acceptable clothes, books that are no longer needed by their owners.

  Such a statement we make in appealing to the poor, though they are, usually, the most generous. Not that they are, originally, better than the rich, but circumstances have fitted them to appreciate the misfortunes, the trials, the wrongs, that beset those a little lower down than themselves. But we have seen too many instances where those who were educated in luxury would cast aside with eagerness the sloth and selfishness that ensue when once awakened to better things, not to hope in appealing to the rich also.

  And to all we appeal. To the poor, who will know how to sympathize with those who are not only poor but degraded, diseased, likely to be harried onward to a shameful, hopeless death. To the rich, to equalize the advantages of which they have received more than their share. To men, to atone for the wrongs inflicted by men on that “weaker sex,” who should, they say, be soft, confiding, dependent on them for protection. To women, to feel for those who have not been guarded either by social influence or inward strength from that first mistake which the opinion of the world makes irrevocable for women alone. Since their danger is so great, their fall so terrible, let mercies be multiplied when there is a chance of that partial restoration which society at present permits.

  In New-York we have come little into contact with that class of society who have a surplus of leisure at command; but in other cities we have found in that class many, some men, more women, who wanted only a decided object and clear light to fill the noble office of disinterested educators and guardians to their less fortunate fellows. It has been our happiness, in not a few instances, by merely apprising such persons of what was to be done, to rouse that generous spirit which relieved themselves from ennui, dejection, and a gradual ossification of the whole system, into a thoughtful, sympathetic and beneficent existence. Such no doubt are near us here, if we could but know it. A poet writes thus of the cities:

“Cities of proud hotels,
Houses of rich and great,
A stack of smoking chimneys,
A roof of frozen slate.
It cannot conquer folly,
Time and space conquering steam,
And the light-outspeeding telegraph
Bears nothing on its beam.

“The politics are base,
The letters do not cheer,
And ’t is far in the deeps of history
The voice that speaketh clear;
Trade and the streets ensnare us,
Our bodies are weak and worn,
We plot and corrupt each other,
And we despoil the unborn.

“Yet there in the parlor sits
Some figure of noble guise,
Our angel in a stranger’s form,
Or woman’s pleading eyes;
Or only a flashing sunbeam
In at the window-pane,
Or music pours on mortals
Its beautiful disdain.”

  These pleading eyes, these angels in a stranger’s form we meet or seem to meet as we pass through the thoroughfares of this great city. We do not know their names or homes. We cannot go to those still and sheltered homes and tell them the tales that would be sure to awaken the heart to a deep and active interest in this matter. But should these words meet their eyes, we would say, Have you entertained your leisure hours with the Mysteries of Paris or the pathetic story of Violet Woodville? Then you have some idea how innocence worthy of the brightest planet may be betrayed by want, or by the most generous tenderness; how the energies of a noble reformation may lie hidden beneath the ashes of a long burning, as in the case of La Louve. You must have felt that yourselves are not better, only more protected children of God than those. Do you want to link these fictions, which have made you weep, with facts around you where your pity might be of use? Go to the Penitentiary at Blackwell’s Island. You may be repelled by seeing those who are in health, while at work together, keeping up one another’s careless spirit and effrontery by bad association. But see them in the hospital where the worn features of the sick show the sad ruins of past loveliness, past gentleness. See in the eyes of the nurses the woman’s spirit still, so kindly, so inspiring. See those little girls huddled in a corner, their neglected dress and hair contrasting with some ribbon of cherished finery held fast in a childish hand. Think what “sweet seventeen” was to you, and what it is to them, and see if you do not wish to aid in any enterprise that gives them a chance of better days. We assume no higher claim for this enterprise. The dreadful social malady which creates the need of it is one that imperatively demands deep-searching preventive measures; it is beyond cure. But, here and there, some precious soul may be saved from unwilling sin, unutterable woe. Is not the hope to save, here and there one, worthy of great and persistent exertion and sacrifice?

  Although Hood’s poem, “The Bridge of Sighs,” has been inserted once before in this paper, we are anxious to make use of it again, as more touching and forcible than any thing that has been or is likely to be written on this subject. We think that many will be willing to give much time, thought, hope and money to save even one from falling from this.*

One more Unfortunate
Weary of breath,
Rashly importunate,
Gone to her death!

Take her up tenderly,
Lift her with care;
Fashion’d so slenderly,
Young, and so fair!

Look at her garments
Clinging like cerements;
Whilst the wave constantly
Drips from her clothing;
Take her up instantly,
Loving, not loathing.

Touch her not scornfully;
Think of her mournfully,
Gently and humanly;
Not of the stains of her―
All that remains of her
Now is pure womanly.

Make no deep scrutiny
Into her mutiny
Rash and undutiful:
Past all dishonour,
Death has left on her
Only the beautiful.

Still, for all slips of hers,
One of Eve’s family―
Wipe those poor lips of hers
Oozing so clammily.

Loop up her tresses
Escaped from the comb,
Her fair auburn tresses;
Whilst wonderment guesses
Where was her home?

Who was her father?
Who was her mother?
Had she a sister?
Had she a brother?
Or was there a dearer one
Still, and a nearer one
Yet, than all others?

Alas! for the rarity
Of Christian charity
Under the sun!
O! it was pitiful!
Near a whole city full,
Home she had none.

Sisterly, brotherly,
Fatherly, motherly
Feelings had changed:
Love, by harsh evidence,
Thrown from its eminence,
Even God’s providence
Seeming estranged.

Where the lamps quiver
So far in the river,
With many a light
From window and casement,
From garret to basement,
She stood, with amazement,
Houseless by night.

The bleak wind of March
Made her tremble and shiver;
But not the dark arch,
Or the black flowing river:
Mad from life’s history,
Glad to death’s mystery
Swift to be hurl’d―
Anywhere, anywhere
Out of the world!

In she plunged boldly,
No matter how coldly
The rough river ran,
Over the brink of it, ―
Picture it, think of it,
Dissolute Man!
Lave in it, drink of it,
Then, if you can!

Take her up tenderly,
Lift her with care;
Fashion’d so slenderly,
Young, and so fair!

Ere her limbs frigidly
Stiffen too rigidly,
Decently, kindly,
Smooth and compose them;
And her eyes, close them,
Staring so blindly!

Dreadfully staring
Thro’ muddy impurity,
As when with the daring
Last look of despairing
Fix’d on futurity.

Perishing gloomily,
Spurr’d by contumely,
Cold inhumanity,
Burning insanity,
Into her rest.
―Cross her hands humbly
As if praying dumbly,
Over her breast!

Owning her weakness,
Her evil behaviour,
And leaving, with meekness,
Her sins to her Saviour!

  Donations will be received by the following Ladies, who constitute the Executive Committee:

  Mrs. Eston, Twenty-Second-street; Miss F. Robbins, 255 Greene-street; Mrs. Abby H. Gibbons, Fourteenth-street; Miss Stayley; Mrs. S.R. Ingraham, 504 Broome-street; Mrs. F. Lane, 14 Second-street; Mrs. Tomlinson, 37 Great Jones-street; Mrs. Robert Watson, 76 Union Place; mrs. Ward, 219 Fulton-street; Mrs. G.W. Hatch, 51 Clinton Place; Mrs. Fitch, 3 Fifteenth-street; Mrs. J.W. Edmonds, 28 Warren-street; Mrs. Wm. Kirkland, 255 Greene-street; Mrs. Langtree, 230 Fourth-street; Mrs. Andrew S. Snelling, 37 Second Avenue; Mrs. Dr. Palmer, 60 Rivington-street; Mrs. Dr. Mason, 281 Greene-street; Mrs. J.H. Martyn, 124 Second-street; mrs. Dey, 8 Tenth-street; Mrs. Beatty, 217 Washington-street; Mrs. Cochran, 204 Broome-street; Mrs. J.L. Mason, 218 Fourth-street; Mrs. R.D. Weeks, 8 Carroll Place; Mrs. Eoremus, 86 Warren-street; Mrs. J. Boorman, 13 Washington-street; Miss Sedgwick, 206 Ninth-street; Mrs. Frelinghusen, University, Washington Place; Miss Seymour, St. Mark’s Place; Mrs. Martin, Prince, near Mercer-street; Mas. James Brinckerhoff, 47 Bleecker-street; Mrs. Allen, 4 Washington Square; Mrs. Jas. Roosevelt, 64 Bleecker-street; Miss McClarandan, 214 Fourth-street; Mrs. Thos. Hastongs, 61 Amity-street; Mrs. Goram Abbott, 212 Fourth-street; Mrs. Ephraim Hulbrook, corner of Eighteenth-street and Fourth Avenue.

“Asylum for Discharged Female Convicts.” New-York Daily Tribune, 19 June 1845, p. 1.