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04 March 2020

Maude Stanley, like a lot of youth workers, had a lot on her plate. She couldn’t turn her back for fear the boys she worked with might burn the house down. And she often felt exasperated by the laziness of some of the young men who would rather play marbles than do the jobs she set up for them.

maude stanley portrait
Image source: Camille Silvy derivative work: Surtsicna

London Youth’s history goes back to the late 19th century. Back then, youth clubs were about instilling proper values in young men. Maude was one of the youth workers in London helping to promote these values.

While there were opportunities for boys, Maude noticed was there weren’t any youth clubs for girls. So, she took it upon herself to open The Soho Club for Working Girls in 1880. The club had 44 members and was open every evening.

The Soho Club was about helping young women develop their skills for the world of work and running the home. They took part in activities like needlework, singing, music, gymnastics and mathematics. Competitive sports, however, were deemed much too unladylike.

Not only did Maude want to make sure young women had the space to develop their skills, she wanted to encourage other clubs like hers to work together to support each other and the young women they worked with. So, in the same year she founded the Girls Club Union. This later became London Union of Girls Clubs which later become part of The Federation of London Youth Clubs – otherwise known as London Youth.

Today, the picture is very different than it was in 1880. At youth organisations in our network right across London, young women can get involved in a whole range of activities – even competitive sports!

I think Maude Stanley would be very proud to see what girls and young women can achieve.

140 years later we continue to champion Maude’s legacy, and on International Women’s Day, I want to say thank you to the pioneer Maude Stanley and all the female youth workers who work tirelessly to support young women to become the best they can be.

– Emily White, Fundraising Manager

Click here to read more of our International Women’s Day blogs.

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