The New Student's Reference Work/Burdett-Coutts, Lady
Burdett-Coutts, Lady. In 1814 there was born in Ramsburg, Wiltshire, England, a little girl named Angela, the daughter of Sir Thomas Burdett, a celebrated parliamentarian, and granddaughter of Thomas Coutts, a London banker. At the age of 22 she inherited a great fortune and became head of a banking firm that was second only to the Bank of England. People expected her to take a high place at the young queen's court and to marry a duke or prince. Instead she quietly set about the task of bringing light and hope to the swarming millions of East London. At a cost of $450,000 she built St. Stephen's Church, the first institutional church in the world. It combined the religious function with the social settlement. Other churches, schools, model tenements, scholarships in universities, evening schools, penny dinners for poor school children, a fishing school and fleet for famine-stricken west Ireland and a great market-house in the slums of East London, followed in rapid succession. Then plain Angela Burdett added her grandfather's name to her own and the Queen made her a baroness—the only woman of the people ever raised to the peerage in Great Britain. As Lady Burdett-Coutts, she secured the Children's Charter from Parliament, to protect children from cruelty; also a law to stop cruelty to animals. In a time of cholera she cleaned East London and forced new sanitary laws. She assisted starving Irish peasants to emigrate and carried on relief work in the Turko-Russian War. For 70 years she was the friend of the queen and of every celebrated man and woman of her time, from Charles Dickens to the Duke of Wellington. Walter Besant made her the heroine of his novel All Sorts and Conditions of Men. At the age of 68, she married her private secretary, Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett, who took her name and entered parliament to further her ideas of public good. She died in 1907 at the age of 93, universally mourned.