The Cinderella Movement
The Cinderella Movement was a late nineteenth century British movement to provide food and entertainment for poor children. Individuals formed "Cinderella Clubs", named after the fairy tale character Cinderella, to address specific problems associated with children's welfare.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century conditions in many cities had become truly appalling. Poverty, disease, overcrowding were widespread despite the fact that Britain was undergoing a period of unprecedented prosperity. The division between classes was marked at all levels but that between manual workers and white collar workers was vast.
Many people debated and discussed the problems at length and various movements began to end this problem by a variety of social and political reforms. A few people took positive action and endeavoured to make practical immediate changes. One of these was Robert Blatchford.
Blatchford was a journalist based in Manchester, co-founder and editor of the Clarion Newspaper. He saw the poverty that existed among mill-workers and the existence that many of them lead and he resolved to do something about it. He started by writing articles encouraging like-minded readers to join him in the formation of groups who would provide food and entertainment for the children forced to live in industrial slums. They quickly became known as Cinderella Clubs after the popular pantomime character who is transformed from a child drudge.
On hearing about Blatchford’s activities or reading his articles in other papers many like minded citizens in towns and cities throughout Britain formed their own Cinderella Clubs and much practical help was given. Some members went further and helped the infant Independent Labour Party to become established, others tackled educational problems but all had the core belief in an end to the deprivation suffered by tens of thousands of working class children.
Little remains of that vast surge of benevolence but its effects are still around. There is still one city, Bradford, with an active Cinderella Club.