Margaret White, Social Worker

The Mothers' Hospital
Interviewed by Toby Butler

Margaret Elizabath White was born in Ashburton in South Devon in 19XX. Her parents were farmers and she up until the age of seven she grew up on a farm in Devon. In 19XX she moved with her family to a farm in Norfolk. Her interest in social work grew out of her mothers' influence. At the age of XXXX she went to Bedford College to do a two-year course in social work. She retired in 19XX.

Below you can to listen to extracts from Margaret's interview.

Image accompanying MP3 audio clip: My call to social work ( KB)

My call to social work

Margaret knew from a young age that she wanted to work with disadvantaged children and adults. Before embarking on her social work degree at Bedford College, she spent a year on a 'settlement' in Fulham, where she worked in a factory and lived among the kind of people she wanted to help.

The Mayflower

Here Margaret describes her work at a scheme set up for women who had neglected their children. Rather than being sent to prison, the mothers at the Salvation Army-run scheme in Plymouth were given practical help in how to care for their children, their families and their homes, as well as encouragement, kindness and love. "The first miracle," recalls Margaret, "was when the children started to play, and the second miracle was when the mothers played with the children."

Fathers and the Mayflower

At their mother and baby homes, the Salvation Army did all they could to help families stay together. Though there was no room for fathers at the Mayflower, they were always made welcome on weekend visits, and were encouraged to contribute financially to their families' welfare.

Training social workers

Margaret became a Salvation Army officer, and was based for five years in Denmark Hill, where she trained cadets in social work. Here she describes the different elements of the two-year training course.


The Salvation Army did its best to keep up with changes within the social work arena, and to respond to an increased demand for professionalism. Here Margaret describes how she developed a training course for Salvation Army officers, and acted as mentor for those who were training elsewhere. She also talks about the Salvation Army's record in working with children and old people.

Missionary work

While at Denmark Hill, she met many female Salvationists who had trained at the Mothers' Hospital before going on to do missionary work and work as matrons in hospitals around the world. Here Margaret describes the dual nature of the Salvation Army's evangelical and social mission, which was on a truly global scale.

'My best men are women'

Margaret describes the atmosphere of the Mothers' Hospital as exceptionally happy and positive. She talks about the important role of women within the Salvation Army, especially within the all-female department of Women's Social Work.

The Mothers'

While the architecture of the Mothers' was "homely rather than clinical", it nevertheless had a reputation for medical excellence. Margaret talks about how its amalgamation into the NHS in 1947 was inevitable if it was to continue as one of London's premier maternity hospitals.

Unmarried mothers

At a time when unmarried motherhood was a source of social shame, the Salvation Army, says Margaret, were "always accepting and never judgemental". Here she discusses the different ways that the Salvation Army supported unmarried mothers and their children.

Mother and Baby Homes

In the mother and baby homes, such as Crossways in Hackney, the young women were given a respite from the stresses of their outside lives, and received the support of other young mothers and staff. Here Margaret describes the daily routine in these homes, and comments on the continuing aftercare that all its residents could expect.

This page was added by Lisa Rigg on 15/10/2009.

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