Representative women of New England/Harriette J. Cooke

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2341345Representative women of New England — Harriette J. CookeMary H. Graves

HARRIETTE J. COOKE, superintendent of Medical Mission, 36 Hull Street, Boston, Mass., is a native of New Hampshire. She was born in the town of Sandwich, Carroll County, in the central part of the State, December 1, 1829, daughter of Josiah and Jane (Cox) Cooke. Her father was of the third generation of his family to reside in Sandwich, being a son of Joel Cooke and grandson of Cornelius Cooke, an early settler in that locality, men characterized by sincerity, uprightness, and simplicity of life.

Harriette Cooke early imbibed the belief that a thorough education was the greatest of helps to a life of usefulness. As there were no colleges open to women in those days, she was obliged to gather what learning she could from the various schools and seminaries accessible to her and from private instruction. In 1853 she was graduated at the New Hampshire Conference Seminary, now Tilton Seminary. After a few years of successful teaching in Massachusetts she accepted a position as teacher in Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa, which she entered in November, 1857, its opening year. She was then a young woman, possessing an ambition to excel in whatever she undertook to do. Her character was well adapted to pioneer educational work, having in it the decidedly marked combination of strength and tender womanly sympathy. She was fully up to the times as regarded methods of instruction and mental discipline.

She had especially had stamped on her soul—as if by divine impress — a desire to assist in the higher education of woman. A profound conviction that only by intellectual and moral culture can the world be raised from the degrading influences of ignorance, and that this end can be best attained through the home by the elevation of woman, rendered her conscious of the importance of her high calling. She thus brought to her new field of labor an enthusiasm which was immediately recognized. Being unusually rigid in her requirements of work from her pupils, she gained a reputation for over-exactness that for a time was not altogether conducive to mere popularity. But with all their unfavorable criticisms, among thinking students she soon commanded the highest respect. In 1886 Miss Cooke was made preceptress of the college and in 1872 professor of German and history, the latter appointment being, it is said, the first honor of the kind conferred upon a woman in the United States. These departments of the college she built up and established on a firm foundation. In 1886 she was relieved of the German and made professor of history and the science of government. Granted leave of absence in 1872, she spent the year in Great Britain and on the Continent, availing herself of the advantages given by the London University for the study of history and literature, also increasing her knowledge of the German language by the assistance of native teachers. She continued her work at Cornell College until 1890.

This brief account of the educational career of Professor Harriette J. Cooke, together with the following appreciation of her work and character, is gathered from a sketch written for the College Year Book' for 1890 by a former pupil and lifelong friend, namely, Mrs. Collin, wife of Alonzo Collin, the senior professor of Cornell College.

Miss Cooke has given special attention to the moral and religious training of the hundreds of young ladies who have been placed under her immediate charge. Many of them testify that her strong appeals to the noblest powers of their being were among their chief incentives in trying to develop themselves into the highest types of true womanhood. She had a realizing sense of the great responsibility resting upon her, a feeling that none can know but those who have consecrated themselves to lives of self-sacrifice for the good of others. Possessed of an active mind and a physical organization that seems never to have known weariness, she has endured unceasing toil for years, having in all her college life lost but one term, and this because of a serious injury occasioned by a fall. With a spirit of unselfishness and a great capacity to endure, she has generally done the work of two.

Miss Cooke is a very pleasing public speaker, having frequently used her talents in this direction for the benefit of her college and other philanthropic objects. She is a strong, terse writer, with an interesting style, as is often shown by class lectures and papers read before literary and other organizations. She has been a zealous student and a constant and .successful teacher of the Bible. This inspired volume has given her much of the wonderful faith, hope, and love she has in and for humanity. She is well informed on the affairs of state and the science of business relations. In the sick-room she has shown herself unusually skilful as a nurse. Fortunate are they who have her name upon their list of friends. Fearless and faithful, she will be to them loyal and true, cheerful and kind.

Soon after leaving Cornell College, Miss Cooke went to England for the purpose of studying Christian work as carried on by Mildmay in North London. This great mission was the first attempt on a large scale to carry on reformatory work in the slums of a great city by workers living among the crowded population. During the winter of 1872, when Miss Cooke was making some research in history at University College, London, her attention was attracted to this work, which, by its unusual methods and by the high rank of those engaged in it, excited great interest in the city. Indirectly it yas the outgrowth of the plague which made such havoc in the congested section of East London during the years 1865-66. It was impossible to care for the dying or to bury the dead, for sometimes whole families were taken sick in one house. At this crisis Mr. and Mrs. Pennefather, with a band of women from the upper class of society, offered to assist the clergyman at Bethnal Green in that centre of the plague. These women, six in number, began their labor of love by opening an old warehouse as a home for themselves and as a centre of distribution of such help as they could give. They pre- pared suitable food, gathered such things as they might need — drugs, disinfectants, clean linen, and so forth — and began their visits to the homes. With nutritious food, comforts of every kind, and words of love they cheered the sick, comforted the dying, read the Bible, and made the rooms they visited clean and tidy. They went to the city magistrate, and pleaded for better sanitary conditions. When the i)lague under their vigorous measures began to abate, they did not cease their work. They established a permanent home in the dark section, the worst in London. It was really the first "settlement" in any slum, though not so called. They began industrial work and established educational classes, Eng- land at this time (1867) having no system of free public schools. Their night school was soon crowded with men of all ages and conditions. They gathered the street boys into bright, warm rooms, and organized them into clubs.

One lady belonging to the cultured class went into the "thieves' quarters," working and teaching there for years. Through her loving faithfulness hundreds were rescued from lives of shame, aiul became upright citizens. One whom Miss Cooke knew became a lay preacher, whose effective work rescued many. Men's clubs were opened, mothers' meetings held, coffee rooms establisheil; and lodging- houses, clean and well kept, took the place of the "dens" that had been "dens of thieves." The gospel service was held in the waiting- room. 'Trained nurses visited in the homes, ministering to their inmates; and Christian doctors gave their services. A marvellous change was wrought in a few years. The number of workers was constantly increased, and twenty-four stations were established in the worst parts of London, managed by the Mildmay workers. When Miss Cooke went there in 1890, these women were ministering to one hundred thousand of London's poor. They had several well-equipped hospitals, four medical missions, convalescent, women's, and orphans' asylums.

In such a practical school of methods Miss Cooke took her three years' course, in 1892 having charge of the night study classes. Work- ing in every department, she learned lessons that are now bearing fruit. In the spring of 1893 she accepted an invitation to enter the Hull Street settlement, Boston, which had been started the preceding January by students of Boston University, among them the Rev. Rollin H. Walker and the Rev. Edgar Helms

and his sainted wife, who brought to this work a consecration which has left an impress for permanent good. Another member of the settlement was Miranda Croucher, who showed such heroic courage during the Boxer massacres in China.

Miss Cooke took an interest in the entire work of the settlement, which is of an all-round character; but the part that owes its origin to her is the medical mission, which was her special charge under difficulties that would have discouraged a less experienced worker. This work—the founding of the medical mission in connection with the university settlement at 36 Hull Street—is the crowning work of Miss Cooke's long and busy life. It is the first medical mission established in New England, and the settlement is the only one, so far as we know, which has this department connected with it. It may here be best described in Miss Cooke's own words: "Its aim is far different from a free dispensary. It cannot be denied that New England is rapidly becoming foreign missionary ground. It is therefore fitting that the best agencies should be used to bring this foreign population into sympathy and in touch with American civilization and American ideas of education.

"Through ministry to suffering, as well as by educational efforts, an effectual door was opened to the hearts and homes of these strangers, who are coming in such numbers to stay with us. Many of them are exposed to imposition and neglect, and are helpless to meet these conditions. By helping them when sick and unable to get work, they are ready to adopt better methods of living, and the children offer the best opportunity for making these people American. These little ones are bright and alert, and, taken into new environments, they readily adapt themselves to new conditions. Thousands of these children are crowded together in the tenements of our cities, and if we neglect them we shall bring upon ourselves the blame of the bad government of our cities, which these children will surely rule in a few years. By all means in our power, now is the time to make good Americans of them and then good loyal citizens, whose right to vote can neither be bought nor sold. To do this we must get into close touch with the home life, and so get a firm hold upon these children and young people. Ten years of this close work in the homes of these people, in sympathetic and friendly association, is already showing the very best results. A large class of young people are already taking an intelligent interest in everything that pertains to the public interest of the North End. Young men and young women are seeking to do for the neighborhood what will be a powerful influence in the right direction. Many are studying to equip themselves for a useful and helpful life.

"The work brings its own reward; and, if any doubt that such methods are practical, let them spend a few days at 36 Hull Street, and see the varied plans and the all-round efforts to win the young people to adopt the best and become the best. There is a hearty co-operation among the many workers of this important part of the city with the excellent public schools and different institutions to make this the centre of a new and a renewed life for Boston."