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Women's History Month: Effie Bentham

Release Date: 07 Mar 2018

As part of Women’s History Month, we’re featuring the lives of inspirational women who had pivotal roles in Barnardo’s history.

Evelyn May Bentham, known to everyone as Effie, was born in Spennymoor, County Durham in 1873. At the age of 19 she was asked by her two younger sisters to help organise a sale of work to raise money for Barnardo’s Young Helpers’ League.

Effie took charge and the event was a huge success. This led to a meeting with Dr Barnardo and she became an active helper and a close friend, establishing the earliest branches of the Young Helpers’ League in the north of England. Effie donated a house, Lincoln Villa in North Ormesby, which was later to be used as a branch home for girls.

In 1905 Effie developed a new way of raising money. She would go to the working people and ask them to subscribe ‘a farthing a week’ direct from their wages. She suggested her idea to William Baker, the successor of Dr Barnardo, who gave her a year to organise the scheme – the National Farthing League was born.

A year stretched to an incredible 50 years and Effie worked tirelessly to expand the scheme. She, and her team, visited steelworks, dockyards, collieries, quarries and as many industries as possible to make impassioned appeals for workers to join. The scheme continued to grow and raise more money despite the onset of the First World War. The National Farthing League extended beyond these shores to Australia, Newfoundland, Canada, USA and Jamaica.

Effie retired in 1956, aged 83. She died in 1970, aged 97 having raised over 7 million pounds for Barnardo’s.

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