We will now deal with the PRESENT STATE OF RURAL HYGIENE, which is indeed a pitiful and
disgusting story, dreadful to tell.
For the sake of giving actual facts,-it is no use lecturing upon drainage,
watersupply, wells, pigsties, storage of excrement, storage of refuse, etc., etc., in
general; they are dreadfully concrete,-I take leave to give the facts of one rural
district, consisting of villages and one small market town, as described by a Local
Government Board official this year; and I will ask the ladies here present whether they
could not match these facts in every county in the kingdom. Perhaps, too, the lady
lecturers on Rural Hygiene will favour us with some of their experiences.
A large number of the poorcottages have been recently condemned as "unfit for
human habitation," but though "unfit" many are still "inhabited,"
from lack of other accommodation.
Provision for conveying away surface and slopwater is conspicuous either by its
absence or defect. The slopwater stagnates and sinks into the soil all round the
dwellings, aided by the droppings from the thatch. (It has been known that the bedroom
slops are sometimes emptied out of window.) There are inside sinks, but the
wastepipe is often either untrapped or not disconnected.
It is a Government Official who says all this.
Watersupply almost entirely from shallow wells, often uncovered, mostly in the
cottagegarden, not far from a pervious privy pit, a pigsty, or a huge collection of
house refuse, polluted by the foulness soaking into it. The liquid manure from the
pigsty trickles through the ground into the well. Often after heavy rain the cottagers
complain that their wellwater becomes thick.
The water in many shallow wells has been analysed. And some have been closed; others cleaned
out. But when no particular impurity is detected, no care has been taken to stop the
too threatening pollution, or to prohibit the supply. In one village which had a
pump, it was so far from one end that a pond in an adjoining field was used for their
It may be said that, up to the present time, practically nothing has been done
by the Sanitary Authorities to effect the removal of house refuse, etc.
In these days of investigation and statistics, where results are described with
microscopic exactness and tabulated with mathematical accuracy, we seem to think figures
will do instead of facts, and calculation instead of action. We remember the policeman who
watched his burglar enter the house, and waited to make quite sure whether he was going to
commit robbery with violence or without, before interfering with his operations. So as we
read such an account as this we seem to be watching, not robbery, but murder going on, and
to be waiting for the rates of mortality to go up before we interfere; we wait to see how
many of the children playing round the houses shall be stricken down. We wait to see
whether the filth will really trickle into the well, and whether the foul water really
will poison the family, and how many will die of it. And then, when enough have died, we
think it time to spend some money and some trouble to stop the murders going further, and
we enter the results of our "masterly inactivity" neatly in tables; but we do
not analyse and tabulate the saddened lives of those who remain, and the desolate homes in
our "sanitary ""districts. "
Storage of Excrement in These Villages. This comes next. And it is so
disgustingly inefficient that I write it on a separate sheet, to be omitted if desired.
But we must remember that if we cannot bear with it, the national health has to bear with
it, and especially the children's health. And I add, as a fact in another Rural District
to the one quoted above, that, in rainy weather, the little children may play in the privy
or in the socalled "bam" or small outhouse, where may be several privies,
several pigs, and untold heaps of filth. And as the little faces are very near the ground,
children's diarrha and diseases have been traced to this miasma.
Cesspit Privies. The cesspits are excavations in the ground;
often left unlined. Sometimes the privy is a wooden sentrybox, placed so that the
fcal matter falls directly into a ditch. Cesspits often very imperfectly or not at
all covered. Some privies with a cubic capacity of 18 or 20 feet are emptied from once to
thrice yearly. But we are often told that all the contents "ran away," and that
therefore emptying was not required!
These privies are often close to the well-one within a yard of the cottagers' pump.
Earth closets are the exception, cesspit privies the rule. (In another place 109
cesspit privies were counted to 120 cottages. And, as might be expected, there was
hardly a pure well in the place.)
In one, a market town, there are waterclosets, so called from being without
Storage of Refuse and Ashes . Ashpits are conspicuous by their absence.
Huge heaps of accumulated refuse are found piled up near the house, sometimes under the
windows, or near the well, into which these refuse heaps soak. Where there are ashpits,
they are piled up and overflowing. Privy contents are often mixed up with the refuse or
buried in a hole in the refuseheap.
As to the final disposal, in most cases the cottagers have allotments, but differing in
distance from but a few yards to as much as two miles from their homes. Their privy
contents and ash refuse are therefore valuable as manure, and they would "strongly
resent" any appropriation of it by the Sanitary Authority.
And we might take this into account by passing a byelawl to the effect that house
refuse must be removed at least once a quarter, and that if the occupier neglected to do
this, the Sanitary Authority would do it, and would appropriate it. This amount of
pressure is thoroughly legitimate to protect the lives of the children.
Health Missioners might teach the value of cooperation in sanitary matters. For
instance, suppose the hire of a sewagecart is ls. the first day, and sixpence every
other day.2 If six houses, adjacent to each other, subscribed for the use of the
sewagecart, they would each get it far cheaper than by single orders.
The usual practice is to wait until there is a sufficient accumulation to make worth
while the hiring of a cart. The ashes, and often the privy contents too, are then taken
away to the allotments. A statement that removal takes place as much as two or three times
a year is often too obviously untrue.
But, as a rule, the occupiers have sufficient garden space, i.e., curtilage, for the
proper utilisation of their privy contents. (I would urge the reading of Dr. Poore's
"Rural Hygiene" on this particular point.)
Often the garden is large enough for the utilisation of ashes and house refuse too. But
occupiers almost always take both privy and ashpit contents to their allotments. Thus
hoardingup of refuse matters occurs. In some cases the
cost of hiring horse and cart-the amount depending on the distance of the allotment
from the dwelling-is so serious a consideration that if byelaws compelled the occupiers
to remove their refuse to their allotments, say every month, either the value of the
manure would be nothing, or the scavenging must be done at the expense of the Sanitary
Authority. From the public health point of view, the Sanitary Authority should of course
do the scavenging in all the villages.
The health Economy of the Community demands the most profitable use of manure for the
land Now the most profitable use is that which permits of least waste, and if we could
only regard economy in this matter in its true and broad sense, we should acknowledge that
the Community is advantaged by the frequent removal of sewage refuse from the houses,
where it is dangerous, to the land, where it is an essential. And if the Community is
advantaged, the Community should pay for that advantage. The gain is a double one-safety
in the matter of health-increase in the matter of food, besides the untold gain, moral as
well as material, which results from the successful cultivation of land.
There are some villages without any gardens-barely room for a privy and ashpit. But
even in these cases the occupiers generally have allotments.
Plenty of byelaws may be imposed, but byelaws are not in themselves active agents.
And in many, perhaps in most, cases they are impossible of execution, and remain a dead
Now let us come to WHAT THE WOMEN HAVE TO DO WITH IT - i.e., how much the
cottage mothers, if instructed by instructed women, can remedy or prevent these and other
( I ) OUR HOMES-The Cottage Homes of England being, after all, the most important of
the homes of any class, should be pure in every sense. Boys and girls must grow up
healthy, with clean minds, and clean bodies, and clean skins. And the first teachings and
impressions they have at home must all be pure, and gentle, and firm.
It is home that teaches the child after all, more than any other schooling. A
child learns before it is three whether it shall obey its mother or not. And before it is
seven its character is a good way to being formed.
When a child has lost its health, how often the mother says: "O, if I had only
known, but there was no one to tell me!"
God did not intend all mothers to be accompanied by doctors, but He meant all children to
be cared for by mothers.
(a) Back Yard and Garden. Where and how are slops emptied? The following are some of
the essential requisites: slops to be poured slowly down a drain, not hastily thrown down
to make a pool round the drain; gratings of drain to be kept clean and passage free; soil
round the house kept pure, that pure air may come in at the window; bedroom slops not to
be thrown out of window; no puddles to be allowed to stand round walls; privy contents to
be got into the soil as soon as possible-most valuable for your garden; cesspools not to
be allowed to filter into your shallow wells; pumpwater wells must be taken care of,
they are upright drains, so soil round them should be pure. Bad smells are danger signals.
Pigsties-Moss litter to absorb liquid manure, cheap and profitable; danger from pools of
liquid manure making the whole soil foul.