THE LITTLE MOTHER
 THEY call her the Little Mother—this woman of whom I
am telling you. Why they gave her that name will
appear as my story proceeds.
The Little Mother devotes much of her time to the doing
of golden deeds among those who are commonly supposed
to be undeserving of kindness.
She is the friend of wrongdoers, although not of
You ask how this can be? I will tell you.
In the state prisons of our country, like that of
Sing-Sing in New York, there are many men who are
undergoing punishment for crimes committed against
Some of these are hardened criminals without
friendships and without friends—men whose lives
have been given to wrongdoing.
Some are men who were once respectable and are now
suffering punishment for, perhaps, their first offenses
against the laws.
 Some have wives and children, mothers, sisters, or
other loved ones struggling in poverty and disgrace,
and with many misgivings hoping darkly for the day of
The most of these men will sooner or later have served
out their terms of punishment. They will be given
their freedom. They will go out again into the warm
sunlight and the wholesome air and the fellowship of
What will they do then?
Has their punishment made better men of them?
Too often it has not. Too often it has only filled
their minds with an ever increasing bitterness towards
all the rest of mankind. Too often it ahs shut the
door of hope, and closed the hearts of these men to
every kindly influence. Too often it has made them
worse instead of better.
And what of the few who go out earnestly wishing to
live honest lives and do right?
Do good men offer them a helping hand? Do friends
encourage them? Or are they not shunned, mistrusted,
shut out from every worthy endeavor?
Can we wonder, therefore, that only a small number of
men who have once been in prison
 ever become good citizens again? Can we wonder that so
many are never reformed but return at once to their
A hundred a fifty years ago, John Howard, a great and
good Englishman, devoted his life to the befriending of
prisoners and the improvement of prisons in Europe. A
hundred years ago, Elizabeth Fry, a sweet-faced
Quakeress, visited the jails of Great Britain and
wrought many a golden deed in behalf of the wretched
men who were confined in them.
All prisons the world over are to-day far less horrible
than they were in the days of John Howard and Elizabeth
But the problem of what shall become of the criminal
after he has suffered his punishment is perhaps greater
now then it ever was before.
It is the problem which came into the mind of the
Little Mother one Sunday morning when for the first
time she was the inside of a state prison.
It was in the penitentiary at San Quentin, California.
The prisoners were in the chapel. Their faces,
"plainly bearing the marring imprint of
 sorrow and sin," were turned toward her. They were
impatiently waiting for such words as she might speak
to them, yet hoping for no comfort.
It was the first time that she had seen the prison
stripes. It was the first time that she had heard the
iron gates; the first time that she had realized the
hopelessness of the prisoner's life.
From that day she was resolved to be the friend of the
friendless, yes, the friend of even those who have
forfeited the right to friendship.
"The touch of human sympathy—that is what every
man needs in order to bring out the best that is in
him. No man was ever so hopelessly bad that there was
not somewhere in his mind or heart some little spark of
goodness that might be touched by true sympathy truly
So argued the Little Mother. She therefore organized a
prison league or society for mutual help, and she
invited prisoners everywhere to become members of it.
Each member of the league promised to do a few simple
things faithfully, as God gave him strength: —
 To pray every morning and night.
To refrain from bad language.
To obey the prison rules cheerfully and try to be an
example of good conduct.
To cheer and encourage others in welldoing and right
Then he was given a little badge to wear on his
coat—a white button bearing the motto of the
LOOK UP AND HOPE.
And as soon as the league
in any prison numbered several members they were given
a little white flag to float above them as they sat in
the chapel on Sunday mornings.
All this was very simple. It did not seem to be much,
and yet it worked wonders.
It united the men in a bond of brotherhood. It gave
them a definite and noble object to strive for. Above
all, it told them that they had one friend who was
earnestly striving to do them good.
And they united in lovingly calling that one friend
their LITTLE MOTHER.
They talked with her about their aims and hopes. They
were like children going to their mother for counsel
 And they wrote her letters such as this:—
"Little Mother: As I entered the chapel Sunday and
looked at our white flag, I thought again of the
promises I had made, of all they ought to mean, and I
promised God that with his help I would never disgrace
it. No one shall see anything in my life that will
bring dishonor or stain to its whiteness."
The field of the Little Mother's work widened. From
the great prisons in all parts of the country came the
call. Would she not visit and talk with the prisoners?
Would she not organize a prison league among them?
It was surprising how many of them really and earnestly
wished to be better men. The touch of human
sympathy—that was what was needed.
And so the Little Mother's golden deeds multiplied.
She became known as the prisoners' friend, and hundreds
of prisoners vowed to be faithful to her.
Men served their terms of punishment and went home,
changed in heart and in purpose. They might meet with
scorn, with cruel rebuffs,
 with cold neglect. But the Little Mother had taught
them how to be brave; she would help them to be strong.
Every member of the league learned to look up to her;
and his conduct after gaining his freedom was made her
Then through the aid of benevolent men, of prison
officers, and of the prisoners themselves, she founded
homes in which those who were newly liberated could
find shelter until they were able to support themselves
by honest labor.
Thus they were prevented from falling into the snares
of former evil associates. They were encouraged to
persevere in their efforts to attain to a nobler
These sheltering homes were called Hope Halls. To many
a man who otherwise would have despaired and returned
to a life of crime, they were the means of salvation.
Thus the Little Mother's golden deeds have produced
golden fruit, and hundreds of men have been reclaimed
to good citizenship; hundreds of families have been
made happy that otherwise would have remained in
wretchedness; and the world has been shown that the
work of punishment
 is most efficient when tempered by the touch of human
And now shall I tell you the name of this Little
Mother? Her name is Maud Ballington Booth. Shall we
not say that it is worthy to be placed in the same
honor roll with those of Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix,
Peter Cooper, and other lovers of humanity?
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