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California instructs a class of young girls in physical culture. The space is not large, and the apparatus is the least expensive, but the girls are growing straighter and less hollow chested, and show an interest in improving the sanitary conditions of their own homes and families.
On Tuesday afternoon a singing class of the tiny boys and girls
of the neigborhood makes the house lively. On Tuesday evening there is a choral society composed of the young men and women of the neighborhood and led by a prominent organist. The members each pay twenty-five cents per month into a fund with which they are planning to rent a house, not only for a meetingplace, but for a club, to be open every evening, as a rival to the saloons. This is their own suggestion, and the development is watched with interest.
On Wednesday afternoon is a meeting that in a measure corresponds to the mothers' clubs of the settlements, but whose
underlying spirit is different. The women form a circle of the Needlework Guild of America, and call themselves the "Visiting Nurses' Auxiliary," although only three of its members are nurses. It meets regularly once a week and makes hundreds of women's and children's garments during the year. These are carefully stored in the basement until November, when the San Francisco branch of the Needlework Guild of America holds its open exhibition of articles collected during the year and votes them to the various charities. The Visiting Nurses' Auxiliary has viewed with pride its own substantial contributions, and its store is voted to the poor outside its own district. Miss Briggs always receives collections from other sections of the Needlework Guild of America, and in time these garments often find themselves in the homes of the very women who have plied their needles so diligently to help others more needy than themselves. This sewing circle has made great strides of advance since its organization four years ago. At first it obtained all its materials for garments from donations; but in a short time it was not content to be so dependent, and formed a plan of purchasing its own goods. Each member now pays ten cents a month dues, and the circle gives a semi-annual entertainment at some public hall, with an admission price of ten cents. The talent is secured from all parts of the city, and the proceeds furnish sufficient material to keep the Visiting Nurses' Auxiliary busy throughout the year. During its first months Miss Briggs furnished both the tea and cake which close each weekly sewing; but then the women arranged that each member in turn should bring the cake and that they buy the tea out of the general fund.
At each meeting, while everyone is sewing, there is a short talk, now arranged for by a college graduate who attends regularly. These addresses are by women and men from different professions. For instance, during the past year a charming Chinese woman doctor has given talks on her native land; one of the probation officers from the juvenile court of Chicago has explained the evolution and working of that body; a noted woman suffragist has told the story of her life; a traveler from Brazil
and one from Germany have given descriptions of the social life in those lands; a specialist on wild flowers, and one on birds, have brought something of outdoor nature into their midst; a student of the American Indians has outlined the government's present policy as illustrated in its Indian schools. In fact, the topics have been those that would interest any intelligent audience and those that would lift these women out of their own narrow environment for the time being. There has not been any attempt in these talks to give the women what they needed for everyday utilitarian purposes, except what they get incidentally. That the talks are appreciated is shown in more ways than one. The topics are discussed afterward in the homes and on the street. Those women who at first could not listen five minutes without engaging in a side conversation of their own now pay strict attention to all that is said and afterward volunteer questions and remarks on the subject. This has all come about without suggestion from Miss Briggs, but rather through interest and imitation combined. When the last semi-annual entertainment was planned, the women themselves suggested that, instead of the usual varied program, they ask the Chinese doctor, whom they had elected an honorary member of their circle, to give them a lecture. They wanted their husbands and children to hear her, and all were delighted when she consented. After the lecture was over, some few of the neighborhood pronounced it "a bum show," but to this every member of the sewing circle retorted: "You are not educated up to enjoy lectures. Now, we've heard so many that we prefer them to the common songs and dances you can get anywhere."
The circle has a regular outing each springtime, when wild flowers are abloom, and occasionally it has been entertained in the homes of those having more worldly goods than its members. These have been pleasant diversions, but the real interest of the women is in accomplishing as much as they can in their regular meetings. Unconsciously their manners have been softened, and the spirit of graciousness reigns over each Wednesday afternoon
On Thursday afternoons, from twenty to thirty girls gather in their sewing class. This was started four years ago by Miss
Rising, the daughter of Professor Rising, of the University of California, but for some time it has been under the guidance of one of the neighbors. The lassies pay ten cents a month, and with this is bought material from which they fashion garments to fit themselves. Very proud is each girl as she takes home the
new skirt or waist in which every stitch has been set by herself. The stitches are remarkably good, too, for it is the purpose of the sewing teacher to overcome the tendency of the shiftless poor to make garments that will not long hold together.
Thursday evening the boys younger than twelve have their nature-study class, and play games and sing songs.
Friday evening is
the jolliest time to be at Miss Briggs's. twelve and their friends come to their "at home." They became interested in animal life through the stories of Kipling and Ernest Seton-Thompson, and now they have a regular nature-study lecturer come to them each week to help them in their observations. The experiences they have brought to Miss Briggs with their snakes and other captives would make a firstclass humorous book. And then their music! This is a weekly treat for the women of the block. Miss Briggs plays the accompaniments, and the boys' voices swell out surprisingly pure and clear in "Down among the Dead Men," "The Jolly Miller," "Gaily the Troubadour," and other old English songs. The mothers congregate on the opposite sidewalk and listen to every note until the piano stops and the boys come trooping out and
march down to their own homes, still singing their favorite "Down among the Dead Men."
All these social relations are but the overflow of Miss Briggs's activity. Her nursing, which is the true field for her energy, occupies her days, and, alas, too many of her nights. Some months she makes over one
hundred and seventy visits to the sick and needy. These visits are not short little calls to leave a few friendly words, but hours spent in using up her own physical strength in alleviating suffering. After a day of bathing, rubbing, poulticing, dressing, and making a house more comfortable for the invalid, she may have just returned home. to rest when the bell
rings and she is called out to assist in ushering some little one into this world or to close the eyes of a man departing into the next. Probably, in the latter case, she has to prepare the body for the funeral herself. After a night devoted to such duties, she may seek sleep in the daytime, but that cannot be found at 4522 Tehama street, where the bell jingles from dawning until dark. Just because she does her life-work as a friend, and not as the representative of an institution, the patients receive her as a friend; and, in their affection, come to her on all occasions.
The nursing grew so in demands that the third year a wealthy friend supplied the funds for the support of a second nurse, and in this, the fourth year, this same friend has given additional means for a third nurse. These live with Miss Briggs and are under her direction. Their presence, by relieving the great pressure of the sick, gives more opportunity to be helpful to the well.