Hymns for (and by) Orphan Girls
Psalms and Hymns for the Use of the Chapel of the Asylum for Female Orphans.
London: Printed by Order of the Guardians, 1797. (BRB0945)
Published by the Female Orphan Asylum at Westminster Bridge for the girls of the orphanage, this 1797 hymnal is the most complete of nine editions printed in the eighteenth century. It was first issued with printed music in 1767. In addition to psalms and hymns, the collection includes an opening section of twenty-eight “sentences sung by the orphans when the minister enters the chapel,” consisting of brief excerpts from psalms. The appendix to the work includes five hymns by the orphanage’s residents: two “by a young lady,” two “by a guardian,” and one without attribution.
The Female Orphan Asylum was founded in 1758 by the English magistrate John Fielding, the author Henry Fielding’s half-brother, with the goal of saving girls from life on the streets by training them as domestic servants. Girls admitted were between the ages of eight and twelve. They learned to read, write, and perform basic arithmetic, and were trained in the domestic arts. The frontispiece reflects the intended transformation of the female orphans, with two unfortunate girls in rags welcomed by the headmistress in the company of happy and well-groomed young women who are already residing comfortably at the orphanage.