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Study Resources :: Women's Study Resources :: Biographies :: The World's Workers: Mrs. Ranyard (“L. N. R.”)

The World's Workers: Mrs. Ranyard (“L. N. R.”)

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Mrs. Ranyard (“L. N. R.”)

Between the gardens of the Thames Embankment and the Strand there stands, raised on arches, a tall row of fine houses well known to Londoners as Adelphi Terrace. From this terrace there is a view unique in all the world. Let us enter No. 2, the Mother House or Centre of the London Bible and Domestic Female Mission, and go upstairs to one of the top rooms, just opposite Cleopatra’s Needle, and there look out of an open window.

We will suppose it is a fine clear day in summer. Below us, beyond the garden, is the great crowded Thames, stretching in a noble bend from Lambeth Palace to where far down stream it is lost to sight near Cannon Street Bridge. How full of life it is! There is a fascination about the scene that rivets one to the window! There to the right is the huge railway bridge and station of Charing Cross, with its many trains and its white sun–lighted vapour. Then there are the towers of Westminster beyond; the great sweep of river and gardens and Surrey shore; the Temple, St. Paul’s, the aggressive roof of Cannon Street Station, the City, the bridges; the swift steam–boats darting by the slow barges, the never–ceasing play of rippling water, the constant traffic on the broad Embankment; far off on the distant hills is the dim outline of the Crystal Palace; and in the extreme east the turrets of the Tower. One might spend an hour there, and not be weary of that marvellous scene.

But we must leave the window, and just glance through the house. Is it Friday? Then there are Bible–women coming and going. Is it Tuesday? Then the stairs and large upper room are filled with Bible–nurses bringing in their empty bags and taking out others full of medical stores for the poor people among whom they work.

Here there is a cupboard full of Bibles or parts of Bibles. Portions at one penny, and Family Bibles running as high as thirty shillings, all to be paid for a penny at a time. Look at that large–print two–shilling Bible, the greatest favourite of all—the Bible–woman will have to call twenty–four times at the buyer’s house before it is all paid for. Let us hope that by that time buyer and seller will be fast friends. In the year 1884 the Bible–women sold nearly twelve thousand Bibles or parts of Bibles, and all were paid for in pennies. Find the value one single text may be to one single soul, multiply by all the texts in the Bible, then multiply the Bible by twelve thousand, add to this the personal influence of an earnest Christian woman, and when you have finished this sum you may be able to arrive at some faint idea of the value of the Bible–women’s work.

Near this Bible–cupboard is a store–room, in which an enthusiastic housekeeper would positively revel. There are presses full of endless packages of oatmeal, sugar, cereal food, lint, cotton–wool, lotions, oil–silk, and the tins in which the nurses carry the cooked food. On the mantelpiece is the neatest possible little machine for rolling bandages. There are presses full of garments, new and old, of all sorts and sizes, numberless little new bundles waiting for numberless little new babies, men’s suits, women’s clothes, children’s clothes. Nurses and Bible–women are always taking them out to those who need them so dreadfully, and kind people are always sending others in.

Downstairs in the large council–room a few ladies are managing the affairs of the Mission. You see they form a little group around one lady who is reading reports aloud to them. On the wall above the reader’s chair hangs the portrait of the foundress, the late Mrs. Ranyard, and the kindly, penetrating eyes of that motherly face still look down lovingly on those who are carrying on the good work she began.

Invisible persons like ourselves may gaze at that picture without disturbing any one.

The portrait was taken late in Mrs. Ranyard’s life, but it is exceedingly characteristic. She was extremely kind and extremely firm. You see both qualities in the keen, deep–set eyes, that seem to judge and weigh and penetrate, but never pierce; in the shrewd, almost humorous expression of the mouth; in the pleasant smile. How beloved that face was in life, and how tenderly regretted now! Those who worked with her can scarcely yet say calmly, “I can’t tell you what she was like, but I have her in my heart! Oh, she was kind—kind—kind! She was unique, there was never any one like her!”

These are the sort of answers, spoken with tears welling up in the eyes, that tell more than words how much she is missed, when one tries to find out what manner of woman Mrs. Ranyard was.

Ellen Henrietta White—this was Mrs. Ranyard’s maiden name—was born at Nine Elms in 1809, and was the eldest of a large family of brothers and sisters. In those days Nine Elms was a comparatively quiet river–side place. Now it is entirely occupied by a gigantic goods–station. Ellen White’s parents were both of them most excellent people, but very dissimilar in character. The father was an exceptionally kind and gentle man, the mother kind also, but a most rigid maintainer of discipline. Both were very energetic in their different ways, and their many children took after both of them.

Mr. White was a prosperous business man, and he and his wife looked well to the education of their children, giving them such culture as was then to be had, but training them with especial care in the knowledge of the Scriptures and of the “Shorter Catechism.”

In such an atmosphere Ellen White early developed a taste for books and art, and a passionate longing for bringing out the best of what she felt was in her. Her brothers and sisters still remember her as “the good elder sister,” and “good” not only in the way of kindness, although she was always their comforter in their troubles, but as their inspirer, their helper in their strivings after knowledge, and in the development of their mental and spiritual powers.

Beyond, however, this vague striving after self–improvement, Ellen White does not appear to have arrived at any definite idea of giving herself up to any particular form of usefulness. When she was sixteen or thereabout, in 1826, the future of her coming life had thrown no shadow upon her. Then one of those epoch–making events that mark the beginning of a new era in the chronology of a life took place.

She has left but few notes of her history behind her, but this event she has recorded at some length. It shall be given in her own words. It is headed:—

THE BEGINNING OF MY LIFE–WORK.

“My mission history begins when, as a girl of sixteen, I was taken by my parents to a Bible‑meeting at Wanstead. We were to stay with the family who entertained the speakers, in which there were several daughters, one of whom, Elizabeth Saunders, was at this time about to part with a dear friend, to whom she owed her conversion. They had been next–door neighbours, and when this dear friend had left for Manchester, Elizabeth, a gentle and loving soul, felt that she should stand alone in her family, who were at that time unconverted. Her heart seemed half–broken, and I remember that an elder friend tried to comfort her with these lines:

God nothing does, nor suffers to be done,
But thou wouldst do thyself if thou couldst see
The end of all things here as well as He.

“I felt much for their sorrow, and so did my mother, and she entreated Mrs. Saunders to let Elizabeth return home with us for a little change. The two friends had been the ‘evangelists’ of their village, and the one left behind was in delicate health and low spirits. Her parents thought she had exerted herself too much, and it was understood that she was to come to us for rest. There was, however, no rest for her but in bringing souls to Jesus.

“One morning I sat at a table drawing [until her life’s end Ellen White never lost her love for drawing and painting; but art schools where girls could study were unknown in those pre–South Kensingtonian times, so the poor things had to do the best they could without them, and that best was not very much after all]; we were alone, and Elizabeth said to me:

“‘Ellen, Ellen, dear, have you ever thought what you will do with your life?’

“‘Do with my life?’ I answered; ‘well, I hope I shall go on cultivating my mind and my faculties; that is all I have thought about yet.’

“‘Yes; but have you thought that this cultivation is to enable you the better to live for others, not for yourself, and that you must live to do something in God’s service?’

“‘Perhaps you mean in a Sunday school? My mother will not let me teach there. She says such work is only for converted people, and I am not converted. I like worldly reading, such as the Literary Gazette, and Lord Byron’s poetry [Byron was then the idol of nearly everybody, and especially of all the young bodies and minds], and I wish to see more of the world before I leave it, especially of its books.’

“‘Then you mean to leave it some time? I wonder what, my dear, you know about the Best of Books? do you love your Bible at all?’

“‘I have read it through three times; I. seem to know all about it. Yes, certainly I love it; but one cannot always be reading one’s Bible.’

“‘I suppose you never have thought how many of the poor people who live in the streets not far from you have no Bible to read?’

“I answered, ‘No, I never thought of that, but I liked your Bible meeting very much the other day at Wanstead.’

“‘Would you like to leave your painting this morning, and go with me to find out how many want a Bible?’

“‘Yes, I should like to go anywhere with you, but it would be like Sunday–school, and I suppose my mother would not approve; and she may also say that you came here to rest yourself from all you do at home.’

“This dear Elizabeth, however, had set her heart on the exploring walk, and she obtained my mother’s consent under protest, I remember, for she looked anything but fit for the exertion, and was made to take egg and wine as a fortifier before going out. So we set forth, she with a Bible in her hand and a prayer in her heart, and in her pocket a pencil and a little book, a page or two of which she had been ruling in squares while I had been painting by her side. Oh! that last walk in her lovely, holy, gentle life! It led her to her death, but me, at that unknown cost, to life eternal. She certainly gave prudence to the winds. We must have been out three hours, and we found the people in thirty–five houses on that day without a Bible.

“I came home, having seen for the first time how the poor live; their ignorance, their dirt, their smells—for we went upstairs to more than one sick–room; and I heard my friend, in a way that I had never heard before (though religiously brought up), tell the good news of the love of Jesus to the consumptive and the dying. She spoke to them, but the Spirit of God carried the message home to me.

“We finished our walk by a talk with an old woman in a filthy shop, who sold coals and greens, and there I never shall forget the odour; and the old woman was deaf and rude; but we actually turned homewards with thirty–five pence in our bag, and as many names in our collecting book, and as we reached our gate I saw that Elizabeth could scarcely stand.

“She asked leave to go up to her room, and very much to my mother’s chagrin was unable to come down to dinner. She was too tired to talk any more that day, and I remember nothing more that afternoon except that when I went to bed at night I took up my Bible to read my usual chapter with a new feeling for it, and a new light upon it from all I had seen and heard that day, and I thought I would begin the Book over again for Elizabeth’s sake; and as I read ‘Let there be light,’ from that hour there was light upon its pages never seen before, for my hard young heart was softened, and a quiet new affection drawn out to this new and gentle friend.

“But in that walk we had both taken fever: mine proved to be bilious, and hers turned to typhus, and she almost immediately returned home. Before her departure, which was to me a great sorrow, she said she should like me to read the life of Henry Martyn with her, twelve pages a day, to which I gladly agreed; but by the time I had finished it, my new friend and teacher was on earth no more.

“This great grief fixed my resolves. When I recovered, I was allowed, to my own surprise, to go again to the poor people, explain my absence, and once more collect the pence, which, when they amounted to £6, were taken into the Ladies’ Bible Committee Meeting at Kennington, of which my grandmother, my father’s mother, was at that time president.

“I became in time its minute secretary and cash secretary; always, however, retaining the charge of my own district, which had become to me sacred ground, and always gladly finding time to canvass other districts with any new ladies who required help, which I considered was the duty of an active secretary.

“I remember thinking that the Bible–work was the one work to which I had been called by God, and to which I must keep faithful as one who had been ‘baptised for the dead.’”

Here the narrative ends. Ellen White was sixteen when this crisis of her life took place; she was over forty before she wrote “The Book and its Story; “and forty–eight before what was indeed to be her great life–work was revealed to her. Remember this, young men and maidens, who are bemoaning the hard fate that gives you so little success at nineteen. As for Ellen White, she turned as if by a spiritual instinct towards the road, far, far along which, and all hidden and even unsuspected by her, lay Ellen Ranyard’s Bible Woman’s Mission.

Many circumstances fostered her devotion to the Book. She became intimate with a large circle of earnest cultivated Christians, among them a man most mighty in the Scriptures, Charles Nice Davies.

Under Mr. Davies’ practical teaching, Ellen White grew more and more to enjoy the Bible, and devoted much time both to the reading of the Book herself, and in trying to get others to do so. The Book became to her the very joy of her heart; she was eager that what it was to her it should become to others.

Her love for all who loved the Bible grew naturally with her growing love for the Sacred Word itself, and her loyalty for the Bible Society, which had never flagged since the death of her “dear Elizabeth,” became more and more pronounced.

Hers was indeed a noble, broad–souled nature. She was eminently a Catholic Christian, having wide sympathies with all who love and serve Jesus Christ.

In after–life this firm grip of Bible Society principles was of the greatest value to her, and gave its distinctive feature to her mission. It enabled her to work, leaning to no party, but simply striving to lead souls into the fold of the Good Shepherd. Ellen White had a great love for history and archaeology, as well as for art and versification. Mr. (afterwards Sir Henry) Layard’s discoveries aroused this faculty very vigorously. When the gigantic forms that had so long guarded the buried gateways of buried palaces were brought to England and set up in our own museums, what a thrill they sent through those who regarded them as “stones crying out,” messengers from God sent to convince an unbelieving age! And few were more thrilled by them than was Ellen White.

But time had been going by. Her father had left the suburbs of London and settled at Swanscombe, between Gravesend and Dartford, beside a wider, clearer Thames than London’s water–way. Ellen White, always an enthusiastic lover of Nature, did not fail to render due homage to Father Thames. He, “the lake–like river,” comes into her verses as naturally as do her many brothers and sisters and her parents. Here, at Swanscombe, in a happy, prosperous home, the large family grew up, and gradually dispersed.

Ellen, the good, bright, elder sister, wrote little poems about their marriages, or their other goings away. She had a very happy influence over them, seeking always first of all their souls’ good, leading them to love God, the Bible, Nature, all fair, good things, and poetry, especially Wordsworth’s.

For Wordsworth she had an extraordinary enthusiasm. The dream of her life was to see him and speak to him. She knew a large part of his poems by heart, and what is more, so wrought upon others of her family, that they too learned many of them. Years afterwards she saw the great master, and conversed with him.

It was not, however, as Ellen White that she was destined to be known to the world. She followed the example of other members of her family, and married Mr. Benjamin Ranyard; but unlike the others, she had no need to leave Swanscombe. She was, she says,

“To a cot I call my own,
Transplanted harp and all;”

yet her new home was quite close to her parents’ abode.

She was very busy there writing verses to her children as they came, and many, a verse of touching sympathy with friends departed. Several of these poems were afterwards collected and published under the title “Leaves from Life,” and the “Border Land, and other Poems.” She was already holding mothers’ meetings amongst the country poor, and her time was filled up with social duties and the education of her children. It was not till 1852 that it was suggested to her that she should write “The Book and its Story.”

Some time before, as a girl of twenty, she had given the world a few of her experiences as a Bible collector. The little book had found a ready sale and many readers. The jubilee of the British and Foreign Bible Society was approaching; Mrs. Ranyard was already well known and greatly valued by the jubilee secretary, the Rev. T. Phillips, who suggested to her that she should write a jubilee volume, telling the Story of the Book and the Story of the Society.

The task involved long and patient labour and much reading; but it was one for which she was very well qualified by many years of daily study and of deepest love for the Book itself. She at length succeeded in putting that story so vividly and yet so simply before her readers that it charmed many of them like a romance.

The reading of “The Book and its Story” marks a new era in many a life now growing old, but young and open to strong impression in 1853, when the Bible Society held its jubilee. Thousands, tens of thousands of homes that book entered to go no more out for ever, to stay there a beloved and honoured friend of the family. Its circulation was enormous.

This literary success, however, was not allowed to disturb the even tenor of Mrs. Ranyard’s life. She hated notoriety; any sort of publicity was inconsistent with her ideas of what was feminine. So for many years she stayed in her quiet river–side valley, quite engrossed with her womanly cares, her books, babies, and Bible collecting, the guiding of her house–hold, and the comforting of her ageing parents.

In those long years, hidden away from all except her own circle, she learned in her own dealings with her neighbours what a Bible–woman’s work should be; in those long years God was training her day by day for the work He was preparing for her. Little she knew for what purpose the Divine Instructor was fitting her. But as maiden, as wife, as mother, ever since that day in her girlhood when she and Elizabeth Saunders had taken that never–to–be–forgotten walk, Bible–work, in one form or another, but chiefly and continuously in making penny collections among the poor, had been the work to which she felt she had– been set apart; and from it she never swerved.

At length there came a time when she and her Mission were to meet. Her boys and girls were growing up, and needed a better education than could be obtained for them in the country. So she and her husband resolved to leave their quiet home and come to London.

They came; they took a house destined to become of historic interest to the friends of a then unthought of agency for good, a house known now to many thousands by its mission name, “Hunter 14 Street.” Little she thought, when she first wrote her new address, what it would one day grow to mean.

It was in June, 1857, that Mrs. Ranyard, accompanied by a retired physician, who had known London well during his early practice, ventured to take her first walk in the terrible Seven Dials, St. Giles’, a locality bad enough even now, in spite of model blocks, schools, mission halls, and new streets, but much worse in those days. Mrs. Ranyard was smitten with horror. Here are a few sentences from her own description of the dismal purlieus of St. Giles’.

“An oppressive, fusty smell assails us as we pass along by the old clothes shops. The dwellers in the cellars beneath the shops are come up this afternoon to breathe the air, the hot and fetid air. The streets are filled with loiterers and loungers. Lazy, dirty women are exhibiting to one another some article of shabby finery, newly revived, which they have just bought. We search in vain among the ragged, sallow children for a bright face or a clean pinafore. There is not a true child–face among them all; nothing speaks of God or Nature but one basket of flowers with which a man happens to be turning the corner of the street.

“Some of the dingy windows of those upper floors are open; and, oh, what dirty, haggard forms are peering out. Many a pane is stuffed with rags, and all around bespeaks a want of light and air and water. We looked up the dark courts and alleys, which had poured forth those squalid children, and which link the seven streets together, and would fain have entered, but there was a something about them which seemed to say, ‘Seek no farther, or you may never return.’”

To most persons, after such a glimpse of low London, the most pressing question would be: “How do these dingy swarms of human beings manage to live at all?” But to Mrs. Ranyard’s mind there occurred what was to her a still more urgent inquiry: “How are these people in their countless courts and alleys supplied with the Bible?”

She went to Mr. M’Cree, the well–known missionary of St. Giles’ and from him she heard that although, thanks to Mr. Thorold, then the Rector of St. Giles’ (now Bishop of Rochester and one of the Council of the Bible–woman’s Mission), Bibles could be had by penny subscriptions at the church, yet only the decent poor availed themselves of this opportunity.

Mrs. Ranyard felt that no lady, however brave, could be of use among those sunken people; but guided by her own experience as a Bible collector, she asked Mr. M’Cree if he knew a good, poor woman who would venture with a bag of Bibles into every room, as a paid agent for the Bible Society, and who would give a faithful account of her trust.

For all these long years Mrs. Ranyard had been in training for the mission which was at that very moment just within her reach.

Let us now leave Mrs. Ranyard for a few minutes while we briefly trace the steps by which “Marian B—” became the first Bible–woman.

Marian’s parents were in a tolerably respectable position when she was born, but her father was a drunkard, broke his wife’s heart, and gradually sank until he and his two daughters were reduced to dwell in a low lodging–house in St. Giles’. He, however, soon died, leaving Marian and her little five–year old sister to get on the best they could. The poor young things had to live in the midst of fearful vice, but, as if by a miracle, they escaped uninjured, although many a night they had to spend on the stairs or the doorsteps to avoid the scenes that were within.

An old man, a fellow–lodger, kind–hearted, although an atheist, took pity on Marian, and taught her to write a little, but told her never to read the Bible. “It is full of lies,” he used to say; “you have only to look round you in St. Giles’ to see there is no God.”

But Marian had a hungry little mind; she managed to pick up reading and knitting by continual gazing in at shop–windows. She never went to any sort of school, and at eighteen married a man as poor as herself. When they went to church to be married she had neither shoes nor stockings, and he had no coat. Her husband, however, poor as he was, was sober, and from that time she knew, what it was to have a “home,” although that home was humble indeed.

On the 11th of February, 1853, four years before Mrs. Ranyard heard of her, Marian was passing through the streets when it came on to pour with rain. She took shelter in an alley that led up to the little Mission Hall in Dudley Street, where Mr. M’Cree was then preaching. Hearing a voice, Marian went in to listen. The address was nearly ended; but some verses quoted from the eleventh of Hebrews touched Marian’s heart. She knew that the book always used in mission halls was the Bible, and that those words must be in the Bible.

When the address was over, the preacher announced that a lending library had just been formed, and that on the following evening books would be lent to the poor. This was good news for Marian. She was at the hall early, and was the first applicant. She had intended to borrow “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which was then creating an enormous interest in every class of society, but a strong impulse that she could not resist impelled her to ask for a Bible instead. It was as if she had heard a voice whispering to her, “Do not borrow Uncle Tom, borrow a Bible.” So she asked for one.

“A Bible!” exclaimed the missionary; “we did not mean to lend Bibles; but wait, I will fetch you one. It is a token for good that the Book of God, the Best of Books, should be the first one asked for, and lent from this place.”

He brought her the Bible, and asked if he should call and read a chapter with her. She said respectfully, “No, sir, thank you; we are very quiet folk, my husband might not like it; I will take the book and read it for myself.”

In the letter Mr. M’Cree had in his pocket when Mrs. Ranyard spoke to him, Marian had written: “I asked you to lend me a Bible; you knew not my name or residence, yet with cheerful kindness you complied with that request; and, for the first time in my life, I brought a Bible into my home. That Bible I still retain; of its influence over me none but its great Author can be aware; nor of the slow but certain means by which its precious truths have been revealed to my hitherto benighted soul.”

Marian was then eking out her husband’s little earnings by cutting fire–papers, or moulding wax–flowers, or making bags for silversmiths, but in spite of poverty and work, she found she had two or three hours a day that she could spare, and in that letter which was in Mr. M’Cree’s pocket when Mrs. Ranyard spoke to him, she had told him that she had received such mercy from God that she had devoted every moment of her life to prove her gratitude. “I have thought over many plans,” she wrote, “all of which I have dismissed but one, which is for me perfectly practicable; and it is to ask your cooperation in it that I presume to address you.

“During the time I was in the hospital I had frequent opportunities of witnessing the utterly friendless condition of many poor outcasts, the plight of their persons and clothing proving their need of a female hand. Now I wish to dedicate the time I have to spare not so much to the decent poor, who have a claim upon the sympathy of their neighbours, but to the lost and degraded of my own sex. No matter how degraded she may be, it will be enough for me that she require my aid, such as washing her, and repairing her garments.”

This was the substance of the long letter which the missionary read to Mrs. Ranyard. He said it was perfectly genuine, and “like the writer when you knew her.”

Mrs. Ranyard was convinced that this was the kind of person she sought, and that if she could carry the message from God to every door, opportunities of many forms of usefulness might arise. She made an offer to Marian, and Marian accepted it with delight. She wrote:

“I believe that grace that was able to subdue my own heart will never leave me in my effort to pour into the hearts of others that blessed Message. I am myself too strong a proof of the power of Almighty God to dare to doubt in any case the mercy which broke down the strongholds of sin in me.”

To penetrate the dens of Soho and Seven Dials, not to give away tickets for bread and coals, but to ask people to pay for Bibles at a penny a week, would have seemed a most visionary scheme to many good Christians had they been told of it. But they were not told of it. Very little was said to any one about the attempt until its success more than justified its seeming audacity.

It was indeed terrible work; but it was also most blessed. Marian, although she had lived in St. Giles’ for thirty–three years, soon found that its hidden recesses were unknown to her. Even she, used as she was to the neighbourhood, was surprised at the state of things she discovered by her room to room visits. Some of her earliest visits were to courts where no one so much as professed to get an honest living, where every one was “tarred with the same brush,” and a very black brush too; where dwellings were worse than the cow–houses of these days, with a heap of filthy straw for a bed; where hare and rabbit skins were kept until the stench of them bred fever; where one pump or tap, with a very scanty supply of water, had to serve the whole court.

Yet into these places the Bible–woman went; often repulsed, it is true, but more frequently treated with respect; for the lowest, although they knew nothing of the Book, had a notion it was something intended to do people good. One “lady with lettuces” even went so far as to make a curtsey to Marian for the sake of the Book she carried.

In only one court was she badly treated, when a bucket of filth was emptied on her from an upper window. This at once made nearly the whole population her friends. One woman took her in and wiped her bonnet, and another brought water to wash her face, and were afterwards among her warmest protectors.

But how about the actual sale? Were any Bibles sold after all? At the end of the first month seventy Bible subscribers were on the books. The taste then was for small copies with gilt edges. Now it is for the large print two–shilling Bible. Under the circumstances seventy subscribers was certainly a much larger number than Mrs. Ranyard’s most sanguine hopes had anticipated.

This result of the first month’s work cheered Mrs. Ranyard exceedingly. She began to think that perhaps the missing link between the very lowest of our people and our upper classes had been found; she began to suspect that the Bible–woman was that missing link.

Much knowledge as to how the poor live was secured by Marian’s visits, which were daily reported to Mrs. Ranyard; “but,” says Mrs. Ranyard, “that was not the first aim. The enterprise was undertaken only with a deep sense that the Message from God should be carried to every member of the human family.”

Before the end of her second month’s visiting, Marian gave her now historical tea–party to eight women who were her most punctual subscribers. Some were buyers of hare and rabbit skins, some sellers of watercresses, fruit, fish, or flowers; but all had bad husbands. Marian had chairs for five of them; the rest sat on the side of her bed. She was not extravagant in providing for them, one ounce of tea, half a pound of lump sugar, half a pound of butter, and a quartern loaf being all that was required. They all brought their new Bibles with them. Marian talked to them, simply telling them what that Book had done for her; and that that was the reason she was so glad to bring it to them.

It was a simple entertainment, but they were all encouraged to talk about themselves, and so when they parted they all declared they had never spent such a happy evening before. As for Marian herself, she declared that every week’s work seemed happier and happier.

At the end of twenty weeks she had sold one hundred and thirty Bibles and one hundred and twenty Testaments, and mostly to those who would not have bought them from any one else. She generally made friends of her subscribers, so that she now found a welcome in over two hundred rooms.

Mrs. Ranyard and her one Bible–woman soon found out that many things besides Bibles were needed. They sold for a halfpenny a printed recipe of a “nourishing soup that could be made for sixpence,” and they lent a saucepan to make it in. They started a clothing club and a sewing meeting; they thought and planned for individual cases in all sorts of ways. Thus, little by little, there grew up a Domestic as well as a Bible mission.

In the simplest faith in the power of the Sword of the Spirit, and with intense womanly sympathy, joined to great sagacity and strong common sense, Mrs. Ranyard gradually worked her way. The means she used for getting at the objects of her loving care were singularly well adapted for their work, and the results were so satisfactory that after a few months of trial, Mrs. Ranyard, who was then editing a periodical called “The Book and its Mission,” ventured to describe her St. Giles’ work in its pages.

Many of the poor creatures whom “Marian” tried to help were Irish; and an Irish friend, one of the readers of Mrs. Ranyard’s little magazine, was so deeply interested by the account of this poor woman’s devotion to her Irish, that she sent, unasked, a donation of £5. This was the first private donation to funds that have by this time amounted to very many thousands of pounds. The Bible Society had, however, given help before.

Mrs. Ranyard had a wonderfully graphic and earnest way of describing the scenes among which Marian worked. A large circle of readers soon became intensely interested in her doings. Here and there those who had long grieved over the dark places of London began to ask, Why not multiply “Marians”? The record of the different missions as they sprang up all over London fills by this time many volumes.

Mrs. Ranyard soon found it advisable to entirely devote her magazine to furthering her mission. She called it “The Missing Link,” meaning by that term the Bible–woman, the missing link between the poorest and the upper classes.

In our limited space it is quite impossible to give even a sketch of this constantly growing work of which Mrs. Ranyard was for twenty–two years the great organising brain; suffice it to say that, beginning with one Bible–woman, there were over one hundred and seventy when Mrs. Ranyard was taken from them, and that these women, for Bibles and clothing, had received from the very poor more than £130,000, a very large percentage of which would inevitably have been spent in drink had not the Bible and Domestic Mission diverted it from its evil course; for, as one woman told Marian when she was collecting sixpences for cheap beds, “Nineteen out of twenty of those sixpences would have gone for gin,” to which many around responded, “Ay, that they would!”

The “Mothers’ Meeting,” now a recognised part of the weekly services of nearly every place of worship, grew out of this mission. Who can tell the blessing it has been to thousands of poor mothers?

For eleven years the Bible–women worked on alone, but the appalling need of trained nurses for the sick poor becoming more and more urgent, the Bible–woman Nurse was added to the Mission Staff.

Mrs. Ranyard had to set about training her nurses herself. Not without difficulty did she procure their admission into the medical and surgical wards of hospitals; but she left behind her when she was taken home about eighty nurses who attend the sick poor in their own homes, visiting seven thousand persons in the course of a year, taking with them the beef–tea or cereal food it is so often impossible for the patients to have properly cooked in their own wretched rooms.

“Oh,” they often say, “Nurse does make gruel so nice and smooth! Not lumpy like! Made with milk too!”

These nurses are indeed a real blessing. Their reports are most touching, and, alas! most terribly true.

Mrs. Ranyard held the strings of the whole Mission in her own hand. “I give you a good long line,” she used to tell her people with her pleasant humorous smile, “but remember I’ve a hook at the end. I can always pull you in.” But while perfectly mistress of the situation, she had the most profound humility, and was willing to learn from the humblest worker.

She was from first to last profoundly impressed with the everlasting importance of the Word of God. Her industry was wonderful. She was at work by four or five in the morning while her health held out; and even during her last illness she would be awake then, reading letters from the Bible–women or preparing reports for her Magazine. Two great sorrows fell upon her closing life. Her girls, each of them, when they reached their eighteenth year, were taken from her. She had looked forward so much to their help and sympathy; their young lives opened with so much sweetness and promise that, although she strove to resign them not only with patience to God’s will, but, as the elder, Edith, said to her just before she died, to “rejoice in it,” the repeated blows left scars upon her most tender, motherly heart that were never quite healed.

She wrote right up to the last. The Reading Room of the British Museum was her refuge. Her early love for Biblical archaeology never waned; nor indeed did any love of hers ever die out. She had a tenacity of grasp for a person or a principle once held that was indeed stronger than death. She had a great diversity of gifts; the most precious was her strange power of winning affection, and that from people of the most various kinds. She was very sweet and bright and witty at home; she had the hearts of all her workers; her sympathy, her tact, her trust in them were wonderful, but no one took a liberty with her. All were anxious that she should be satisfied and thankful when she was so. She is “dear Mrs. Ranyard” still to all who survive.

As she approached her threescore years and ten, her health and strength gradually failed. She toiled on still “amid deepening shadows, amid weariness, dimness of eye, and failing hand in the severely noble temper of Christian humility, unconscious of self,” until at last absolute illness forced self–consciousness upon her.

In the February of 1879, her seventieth year, she had a severe bronchial attack, but she fought through it with characteristic resolution. Her friends and she herself thought she was recovering; she rose and seemed cheerful; then the end came swiftly, and her busy life on earth was over.

Great was the mourning and weeping when they carried her body to its last resting–place. One present writes “how they wept for her, the founder of Bible–women to the poor women of London; the friend who had gathered alms for them, gifts of money, food and raiment, gifts of flowers and fruit; the friend who had cared for them in their sickness and sorrow, who had sent nurses to them in their own homes, the friend who had cared for the souls of their poor mothers, sent God’s Word to them, and teachers to show the way of salvation, and tell them of the love of Christ. Our dear Bible teacher is dead. Her voice is hushed, her pen laid aside, her loving heart still.”

But her work lives—lives and grows. Its new home is the house in Adelphi Terrace, through the windows of which one sees Cleopatra’s Needle and the great crowded bend of the broad–water of Thames, and under the title of “Bible Work” (Cassell and Company) the chronicles of the Mission are still month by month continued.



CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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