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Women's History Month: Syrie Barnardo

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.

Although Thomas Barnardo’s vision more than 150 years ago may have been to help all destitute children, his early work focussed mainly on boys. It wasn’t until he married Sara ‘Syrie’ Louise Elmslie that Barnardo’s was able to care properly for the thousands of girls living on the streets or in abject poverty around London’s East End.

Syrie Barnardo

A philanthropist in her own right, Syrie had already set up her own Ragged School and her marriage in 1873 paved the way for the charity’s work helping girls – a legacy that continues to this day.

As a wedding present, the couple were given a 15-year lease on Mossford Lodge in Barkingside – the site of the charity’s headquarters today – which became Girl’s Village Home. Syrie was instrumental in setting up the home which provided a safe haven for girls and offered training in domestic service and nursery nursing. In the first year the home supported 350 girls and by the 1930s there were around 1,500 girls living there.

Syrie Barnardo

Syrie’s involvement in Barnardo’s opened the door for thousands of girls who would otherwise have been forced into begging or prostitution to earn money.

Syrie continued to support the organisation until her death in 1946 aged 96.  Her ashes are buried alongside her husband at the Girls Village Home in Barkingside.

Syrie is well known in her own right, however other women had very influential roles in Barnardo’s over the years.

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