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November 27, 2021 | Kim Morgan

Workhouses and the role of women

We were mentioned in November’s issue of the BBC History Magazine. We wrote in as a response to an article on Workhouses bemoaning the lack of women mentioned.

It was interesting to read about the evolution of workhouses but you neglected the role of women in this. Our charity, WayfinderWoman, had a Heritage Lottery Funded project, Women of Eastbourne, where we highlighted Marie Corbett (1859 – 1932) who set out to reform the conditions of the workhouses and particularly protect the children. In 1894 Marie was one of the first women in the country to be a Rural District Councillor and a Guardian standing for an extraordinary 36 years.  Focusing first on Uckfield, she set about finding people in the community who were willing to open their homes and foster children.  She went on to help children in the neighbouring parish of Eastbourne. Eastbourne Union workhouse had a reputation for harsh and callous treatment. She had soon placed every eligible young child in a suitable home. At her peak, she had 40 children to visit every month with 100 under her care. Every child was paid for. 5 shillings per week went to the foster family for their keep. Marie received their school reports and took the children to the dentist. Her care and interest for her family of orphans was unprecedented.

If you want to learn more about Maire Corbett or any of the other women go to www.womenofeastbourne.co.uk

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