« PreviousContinue »
A NEW IDEA IN SOCIAL FRATERNITY. The past century saw a mighty impulse toward bettering the condition of the weak. Slaves were liberated, women received recognition as rational beings, children were given rights other than those accorded by the whims of parents, and laborers were allowed to meet in self-respect, and to assert the dignity of their calling
With this amelioration of social conditions, men of diverse classes approached cach other at the close of the century in a different attitude from that which would have been possible at its beginning. Some of our most intelligent citizens not only theorized about social relations, but tried their theories by practical experiments. Settlements and clubs have gone into the heart of the crowded tenement districts and have made life assume a more roscate hue to many a heavy laden one.
Yet the field is so great that every new case of genuine fraternity between those in different walks of life is worth while telling to the world.
In a crowded block in San Francisco, on Tehama street, between Fifth and Sixth, stands a house where representatives of all classes of labor, and of all social conditions, meet and discuss in the most friendly way all topics of human interest. The mistress of the house, Miss Octavine Briggs, is a visiting nurse, who established herself here to be in the center of her work.
Miss Briggs is a sister-in-law of Professor Bernard Moses, of the University of California, now absent as a member of the Taft Commission in the Philippines, and most of her life has been spent amid the advantages of a university community. Intellectual, witty, accomplished, with a charm of personality, and an unusual understanding of human nature, she seemed fitted best for society, in the limited sense of the word; and her friends were all surprised when she decided to win a diploma from the California Women and Children's Hospital rather than a degree
from the university.
After graduation from the hospital, Miss Briggs worked for over a year as nurse under the Associated Charities, and lived at the college settlement in South Park. This life gave her an insight into the needs of the people of the district, and she felt that one of their greatest necessities was the influence of a home and inspiring friends.
With financial aid from some broadminded men and women, she rented a house on Tehama street, No. 45272, and there made her home as artistic and dainty as any in the more favored districts of the city. In fact, there are many treasures in it that are enviously eyed by people of means and culture. In the living-room two of Keith's landscapes
HOUSE AT LEFT IS 4527 TEHAMA STREET. bring in the California sunshine, a sepia copy of Millet's "Shepherdess” gives an ennobling calm to labor, prints of children show the joy of action, and a Madonna reveals the exalting influence of love. In the bookcase Tolstoi, Spencer, Henry George, Mill, Ruskin, and other serious thinkers rather predominate over writers of fiction, verse, and travel. On the piano, instrumental and vocal music await their turn to delight the listening ears of the neighborhood. Good magazines lie invitingly on the table and in the
. cozy corner.
Old brasses gleam down from a shelf, and here and there flowers add the culminating touch of refinement.
The only other room on the first floor is the kitchen, and because many of her neighbors have their kitchen as the only general living-room, Miss Briggs has expended some thought on hers. It is an especially attractive room, with its light-tinted
walls, its dainty white curtains, its window ledge of growing plants, and its open shelves of Canton dishes, which, by the way, were presented to Miss Briggs by some of her neighbors.
On the second floor are three small bedrooms and a bathroom, each a marvel of cleanliness, simplicity, and good taste.
In the basement are some storing-places and
a bathroom used by the 9. neighbors.
If the house, with the spirit of freshness and friendliness that pervades it, is a pleasure to the neighborhood, the backyard is a constant surprise. The tiny inclosure, usually the receptacle of all sorts of unsightliness, is neatly boarded and painted, and is trans
formed into a refreshing greenery, with potted palms, geraniums, and ferns. At one side some boxes furnish houses for the animals or reptiles which a nature-study class are observing.
That Miss Briggs has been able to keep the home so attractive has been due to the co-operation of an efficient housekeeper, Miss Louise Schmidt. Between these two the conventional relations of mistress and maid are supplanted by a sincere friendship that finds its expression in a helpfulness, not only in matters of household convenience, but in the larger duties of life. It was not easy to find such service. In the first year Miss Briggs was on Tehama street she had eight different house girls, all but one leaving on their own account. Some of them were doubtful about the propriety of a young woman's keeping house alone, especially in such a neighborhood, and all objected to treating the neighbors as courteously as they did visitors from
more favored spheres. On this one point Miss Briggs is firm, that there shall be no class distinctions made in her house. With the advent of Louise the success of the house was assured. Grasping the true spirit of the work, she supplemented Miss Briggs, by being an example of cleanliness, kindliness, and true economy to the ubiquitous neighbors. Then, too, she took care
of her mistress's physical condition and made it possible for her to accomplish the work of several ordinary women. After two years' service as housekeeper, Louise has gone to study to be a nurse; but her spirit has descended to her successor, Miss Della Schultz.
To visit Miss Briggs came her old friends from other parts of the city, from Berkeley, and from Stanford; and here they met the new friends she had made in the neighborhood. Because this home is one of the most interesting places in the city, the first visit is always only the beginning of many, and one is constantly meeting the same people there. From these meetings, friendships have grown up between her older and newer friends, and all are helpful to each other. If a university professor can discourse eloquently on economic problems, a factory lad can offer his own experiences as a practical example. If a college
woman can give some of her investigations along the lines of child study, a mother, who by her own hard work has supported and reared seven children to good citizenship, can testify to the mother's insight into the child's needs.
Aside from the hundreds of neighborly calls made at the house each week —and it is surprising how much time these people have for visiting—there are held there seven weekly organized meetings.
On Monday evening a woman graduate of the University of