Ancestry UK

The Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants (MABYS)

Following her appointment as the first female Poor Law Inspector in 1873, Jane Senior (often referred to Mrs Nassau Senior) took a particular interest in matters concerning children, especially the care and education of girls. She also championed use of the cottage homes system.

At her premature retirement due to ill-health in 1874, she outlined proposals for the creation of a national scheme for the aftercare of pauper girls leaving the workhouse, especially those aged of sixteen or more. Her ideas, taken up by Henrietta Barnett, led to the formation of the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants (MABYS). By the 1890s, the Association had more than 1,000 volunteers who visited girls at their workplaces, and helped them find accommodation and new employment, until they reached the age of twenty. MABYS and similar charitable organisations were helped by legislation in 1879 which allowed poor law authorities to contribute to their funds.

From 1882, the Local Government Board included a report from MABYS in its own annual report. During 1893, the Association had under its supervision 2,412 girls from Poor Law Schools and 955 from other institutions. Of the total, 1,700 were reported as 'satisfactory in their conduct and work', 740 as 'those against whom no serious faults have been alleged', 189 as 'accused of dishonesty, untruth, extreme violence of temper etc.', and 32 as 'having lost character or been in prison for theft etc.'

The establishments set up by MABYS included a number of supervised hostels or lodging houses, where girls could stay while looking for employment; free registry offices, where potential employers could place details of situations available; and a training schools. In the early 1900s, a number of MABYS establishments were certified as Auxiliary Homes, enabling them to receive girls who were leaving, or on licence from, Industrial Schools.

After the First World War, MABYS was renamed the Mabys Association for the Care of Young Girls. By the 1930s, the Association's objects were stated as: To befriend young girls in or entering service, or other work, and improve their general condition. Those coming within the scope of the society were girls of good character. (1) Referred by London County Council Committees and Country Council Committees. (2) Referred by the Ministry of Labour and other public authorities. (3) Without situation, or otherwise in need of help. Such assistance s necessarily freely given, but every effort is made to develop self-help, and to obtain aid from those on whom girls have a claim. Homes are provided for lodging girls out of place, and for giving a short period of training in domestic work.

Mabys continued in existence until 1943 when its activities were taken over by the London County Council.

The Association for Befriending Boys was formed in 1898 and performed undertook similar activities to MABYS within the metropolitan area.


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