Age of the Do-Gooders: Suffer the Little Children

Age of the Do-Gooders: Suffer the Little Children

Posted On: March 9, 2012
Posted In: ,
Comments: No Responses

Ian Hislop looks at the do-gooders’ dramatic struggle to give youngsters a proper childhood, sending them to school instead of up chimneys, helping rather than hanging juvenile delinquents and raising the age of consent.

Dr Barnardo founded one of the most famous charities of his era. But his methods were decidedly dodgy: he was guilty of misleading advertising, photo-fakery and even child abduction.

Yet, we owe our own concept of child protection – that children have rights independently from their parents – to Thomas Barnardo. Indefatigable Bristol spinster Mary Carpenter’s radical approach to helping young offenders was years ahead of its time.

But even her patience ran out with some of the errant teenage girls at her pioneering reformatory school. Maverick newspaper editor WT Stead shocked the nation with his lurid expose of child prostitution – an exclusive which involved him buying a 13-year-old virgin for five pounds.

His style and methods make today’s tabloid newspapers seem tame. Stead managed to get the age of consent raised to 16, where it remains to this day.