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Ref  TS6   Girls' Friendly Society Brooch

A gold brooch circa 1910, set with a harlequin array of gemstones and the initials 'GFS' for a Lady Associate of the Girls' Friendly Society. This philanthropic society was founded in 1875 by wealthy matriarch Mary Elizabeth Townsend to offer support to young working class girls who were new to urban life. There were two classes of membership : the working class girls who were known as Members and the upper class ladies who were called Associates. The associates' role was to mentor the members. Hostels were built for the girls and they were provided with training and other opportunities to better themselves. As the society mimicked the founders’ own relationships with their servants, it naturally attracted the class of domestic servant girls who often led a hard and lonely existence as maids in households with only one or two staff. It was less popular with shop girls, who considered themselves a cut above, and Northern mill girls, who were, according to a GFS report, 'undisciplined, impatient of reproof and entirely wanting in self control'. There was strong moral flavour to the society, which aimed through Christian values to tackle the problem of working class out of wedlock pregnancies. As Mrs Townsend expressed in a letter of 1879: 'We are fighting one of the greatest battles the world has ever seen, the battle for the purity of womanhood, for the possibility of virtuous Christian maidenhood.' A GFS hostel built in 1912 near Victoria Station contained a stained glass window inscribed with the pious command 'Keep innocency', reflecting the society's mission. This GFS brooch measures 2.5 inches by 2 inches and is set with various gems - zircons, garnets, sapphire, ruby and rock crystal. It is in immaculate condition.

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