Woman of the Century/Ernestine Schaffner
SCHAFFNER, Mrs. Ernestine, "The Prisoner's Friend," is a citizen of New York City. She is the possessor of wealth, that enables her to indulge her charitable leanings in a substantial way. She has always felt a deep interest in the criminal and downtrodden people of her city, and since 1885 she has done remarkable work in behalf of prisoners of both sexes, who are under arrest or serving sentences in the city prisons. She has an office at No. 21 Center street, near one of the prisons. Over the door is the legend: "Free Advice to the Poor and to the Innocent Accused." She visits the courts and devotes her time to the relief of the prisoners. She is a woman past middle age, and her work has been carried on alone. She was drawn into the work in a simple-way. One day she read in an evening paper of a young German immigrant, who, having been arrested for some trivial offense, was so overcome by the disgrace that he tried to commit suicide. The next morning she bailed him out, and so impressed was she by his story and her belief in his innocence. She began to think of how many innocent people may be unjustly accused of crime, and how she could help them, should she make it her life-work From that time she devoted herself ERNESTINE SCHAFFNER. to the cause of the innocent accused. She has given out over fifty-thousand dollars in bail money and has lost about six-hundred-fifty dollars, and two-hundred-fifty dollars of that she lost through a lawyer, who was afterwards m the Tombs under a sentence for swindling. Recorder Smyth would not allow her to go bail for an accused person, refusing either to accept her bond or cash, so she gave the money into the hands of the lawyer, who was engaged to defend the accused, and lost it. Her intuition is remarkable. So great are her powers of reading countenances, that she is seldom deceived in those whose cause she undertakes to champion. She has never tailed to get an acquittal on the merits of a case. She gives her individual attention to even - cast-, reads every letter, investigates thoroughly and then acts. She has voluntarily given up a life of ease to devote herself to the cause of those who may be wrongfully held. She has rescued scores of innocent persons from unjust detention, trial and conviction on circumstantial evidence.