Read the fascinating story of Grace Kimmins, from her social work in the Bermondsey slums in the 1890s, the founding of her unique craft school for disabled boys in Chailey, Sussex in 1903, through two World Wars, to the takeover of Chailey Heritage by the NHS in 1948.
Before Grace set up her craft school for disabled boys at Chailey, in Sussex, in 1903, she had been working as a Sister of the People at the West London Mission and then at the Bermondsey Settlement.
Amongst her fellow Sisters was Emmeline Pethick who would go on to become a very active suffragette, even suffering the indignity of force-feeding. A leading supporter of the West London Mission was Lady Henry Somerset, temperance leader and suffrage campaigner. But Lady Henry was not in favour of the violent protests of the suffragettes and aligned herself with the suffragists, believing that reasoned argument was a more effective tool. Millicent Fawcett, suffragist leader, was also amongst Grace’s friends. When Grace set up her Guild of the Brave Poor Things for disabled adults and children, both Lady Henry Somerset and Millicent Fawcett were on the founding committee.
Grace at Chailey in 1903
Grace clearly believed that women had an important part to play in society and actively campaigned in support of Sisters who were standing for office as Guardians of the Poor.
She appears to have told her family that she could have been a suffragette. She certainly liked theatrical gestures. But instead, she put her main energies into her social work with the poor and disadvantaged and became a pioneer of special education.