The Westminster Budget from London,  on March 13, 1896 · Page 11
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The Westminster Budget from London, · Page 11

London, England
Issue Date:
Friday, March 13, 1896
Page 11
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MARCH 13, 1896 THE WESTMINSTER BUDGET 9 "PIONEERS, O PIONEERS!" / A CHAT WITH MRS. MASSINGBERD. " The somewhat amusing correspondence in the Westminster Gazette contains one or two points on which I would like to say a word, just because they are misleading," said Mrs. Massingberd, the president of the Pioneer Club, to a representative who had asked for a little light upon a question raise;! in the correspondence in that paper concerning the Pioneers and the Navy League. "One of your correspondents complained that our general committee is non-elective. But why did he, or she, not go a little farther and state the /act that I, the president, am also the sole proprietor of the club, and that therefore it rests with me to choose my committee from among the members ? All members know this before they join us. It it does not suit them the remedy lies in their own hands. They may either decline to join, or, if they are members, they can resign. " Then it is complained that no annual general meeting is held. Why should there be, since I am solely and entirely responsible, both financially and otherwise ? If members wish to propose any improvement, or to ventilate any other question concerning the club, they can write to me, and their letters are carefully considered. But as to forcing me to do this, that or the other, that cannot be. ' ' "I am the autocrat of the Pioneer Club." The last dictum, in solemn type, will raise be. r ore the mental vision of most people the image of a virago, stern and aggressive, a woman all of MRS. MASSINGBERD, THE PRESIDENT OF THE PIONEER CLUB. PHOTO, BY H. BULUNGHAM. whose womanliness has fled—a Pioneer, in fact, as that personage exists in the mind of the average man and woman. " I've always heard the Pioneers were a set of mannish, shrieking women, untidy in dress, and man-hating in their ideas. And the president's own way of expressing herself points that way," says the heavy father or the buxom matron, reading the above. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Massingberd is absolutely different. Both she and the Pioneer Club are an entire surprise to anyone who has heard of them only from hearsay and outside opinion. The club in Bruton-street is a splendid mansion, which requires but little alteration to make it again into what it was before the president of the Pioneers bought it for the club. But in the inner front door, "Pioneer Club" is printed in coloured glass, and on the glass panels higher up two lines from Walt Whitman are quoted. One is, " We the rank for travel clearing," and the other, " All the hands of comrades clasping.'' Then there are notices above the hall table referring to the several social and intellectual meetings, and the doors leading to the various rooms are labelled in large black letters. One of these lower rooms is the club dining-room, with a beautiful portrait of the president, by Mr. Jopling, let into a panel over the fireplace. The room, with its fine paintings, quaint furniture, ancient tapestry, plate, and china, might be the private dining-room of any wealthy family. You go up the seignorial staircase, and are in handsomely and very tastefully furnished drawing- rooms, where the Pioneers may disport themselves every day of their lives. AU the important papers and periodicals are there ; you can do " reading, writing, and arithmetic" to your heart's content, or you can chat with kindred souls, lounging in softest easy-chairs or sofas covered with " Morris ;> stuff. « Love thyself last " is the motto which the president has set over the Eastern-looking arch between the two large drawing- rooms. Still one can love oneself very well in this charming room. But if the club is a revelation, its president is even more. You had imagined a dashing, assertive, loud-voiced personage; you find a quiet, graceful, refined lady, with a low, cultured voice, and with a kind of undefinable charm reminding you of Mrs. Annie Besant, without the latter's air of mysticism. It is a pleasure to hear Mrs. Massingberd talk, to listen to an account of her hopes for the club, and to note her calm tolerance of the narrow and the intolerant. " I know," she says, with a quiet smile that is just a little sad, " I know that all sorts of rumours have been spread about this club. But it is in no way true that we are mairfjaters and discontented women. The fact that we admit men as guesls and lecturers disproves the first accusation. And anyone who has once been present at one of our gatherings will soon see that we are anything but discontented women. What we are, and what it was my object that we should be in instituting the club and in carrying it on, is a land of women each of whom takes a personal interest in any of the various movements for women's educational and political advancement. We are Pioneers not in order that we ourselves might benefit by our work. We but want to clear the road for those who come after us, to make the journey through life more easy for them. " Also, my object in founding the club was to enable women of various social classes, who would otherwise never be able to meet on an equal footing, to come here and forget their class distinctions, and meet as members of one body. Private position is here of no value, while it ie of the greatest possible value that they have common interests and aspirations. We have succeeded better than I thought we should. We have now, after four years' existence, over 500 members. Among them are both leading society women, actresses, and other professionals, and also milliners, dressmakers, and women engaged in various trades. Of course we must know something about a woman's private life before we admit her; but her social position is in no way an obstacle to her becoming a member. It is because the club is so very satisfactory in this respect that I shall try for some time longer to see if it will not pay its way. So far 1 am losing by it, and I do not think that it would be right to go on with it if this remained so after a fair trial of some six or seven years." " Is the club otherwise on the same lines as a man's club ?"—"Yes, like the ordinary West End club, except that we have no party politics. Members may have meals, invite their friends, and also have beds for some limited time. Have we ever blackballed a member ? Rarely, very rarely, though it has happened once or twice. Women are more clubbable than people seem to have thought them, and club lifedevelops broadersympathies. ' THE PRINCE OF WALES'S CYCLE SPILL. A rumour went the rounds the other day to the effect that the Prince of Wales recently sustained a somewhat severe lall while cycling. There seems to have been some truth in the statement. The Cycle tells the whole story in the words of Mr. Herbert Smith, of the well-known cycling firm. "I was requested," says Mr. Smith, " to attend upon Sir Francis Knollys at Marlborough House last Friday week. It appeared that whilst tricycling, in company with Sir Francis, I believe, in the vicinity of Sandringham, the Prince, whilst riding uphill, had pulled rather heavily upon his handlebar, with the remit that the machine capsized backwards, throwing him heavily to the ground, where he narrowly escaped being run over by Sir Francis, who was following closely behind. At Marlborough House I had a conversation with Sir Francis Knollys with regard to the Prince's accident and the desirability of fitting a two-speed gear to his mount, a matter upon which Sir Francis, who rides the same pattern machine as his Royal Highness, seemed keenly interested. The machine was perfect of its kind, scaling some thirty pounds, and geared to 59 inches; but, as I was bound to explain to Sir Francis, rather the mount for a skilled tricyclist than for a comparatively inexperienced rider, as the Prince must needs be. As I was inspecting the machine, the Prince himself appeared at the end of the corridor, and after exchanging a few words in French with Sir Francis, joined freely and affably in the discussion. At first he expressed his belief that the machine capsized without any contributory action on his part, but I ventured to suggest that his Royal Highness, by sitting too far back and putting too much weight into the pull upon the handlebars whilst travelling uphill, was responsible to some degree for the accident He smilingly confessed to a weight between thirteen and fourteen stone, and to the fact that, notwithstanding the forethought of the designers of the machine in the matter of the distribution of weight, he sometimes found that his wheels ploughed somewhat heavily on the sandy roads over which he was in the habit of riding. At my request the Prince mounted the machine, which, for want of a little adjustment, gave him a rather uncomfortable seat. I recommended a lower gear as a preliminary to the projected two-speed gear, and that the saddle should be shifted some two inches forward." Let us hope that when next his Royal Highness " takes his rides abroad" there will be no danger of a repetition of his recent experience. The best book for a present for a boy or girl. Now ready. Fancy cloth, gilt edges, price 6s., with cover specially designed by the author. "Who Killed Cock Robin?" and other stories for children old and young. Told in pen and pencil by F. C. Gould. Of all Booksellers, or from the Publisher. Published at the WESTMINSTER GAZETTE Office, Tudor-street, London, E.C.

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