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An Autobiography

Widening Interests
During this period my work on the State Children's Council continued, and I never found
time hang heavily on my hands; so that when Mr. Kingston met me one day later in the
year, and told me he particularly wished me to accept an appointment as a member of the
Destitute Board, I hesitated. "I am too old," I objected. "No, no, Miss Spence," he replied
laughingly, "it is only we who grow old--you have the gift of perpetual youth." But I was
nearly 72, and at any rate I thought I should first consult my friends. I found them all
eager that I should accept the position. I had agitated long and often for the appointment
of women on all public boards, particularly where both sexes came under treatment, and I
accepted the post. Although often I have found the work tiring, I have never regretted the
step I took in joining the board. Experience has emphasized my early desire that two
women at least should occupy positions on it. I hope that future Governments will rectify
the mistake of past years by utilizing to a greater extent the valuable aid of capable and
sympathetic women in a branch of public work for which they are peculiarly fitted. Early
in my career as a member of the board I found grave defects in the daily bill of fare, and
set myself to the task of remedying them as far as lay in my power. For 30 years the same
kind of soup, day in and day out, followed by the eternal and evergreen cabbage as a
vegetable, in season and out of season, found its way to the table. My own tastes and
mode of life were simplicity personified, but my stomach revolted against a dietary as
unvaried as it was unappetizing. An old servant who heard that I attended the Destitute
Asylum every week was loud in her lamentations that "poor dear Miss Spence was so
reduced that she had to go to the Destitute every week for rations!" My thankfulness that
she had misconceived the position stirred me to leave no stone unturned for the
betterment of the destitute bill of fare. I was successful, and the varied diet now enjoyed
bears witness to the humanitarian views of all the members of the board, who were as
anxious to help in the reform as I was. My heart has always gone out to the poor old folk
whose faces bear the impress of long years of strenuous toil and who at the close of life at
least should find a haven of restfulness and peace in the State for whose advancement
they have laboured in the past.
She was a witty woman who divided autobiographies into two classes... autobiographies
and ought-not-to-biographies--but I am sure she never attempted to write one herself.
There is so much in one's life that looms large from a personal point of view about which
other people would care little, and the difficulty often arises, not so much about what to
put in as what to leave out.
How much my personal interests had widened during my absence from home could be
gauged somewhat by the enormous increase in my correspondence after my return.
American, Canadian, English, and Continental correspondents have kept me for many
years well informed on reform and kindred subjects; and the letters I have received, and
the replies they have drawn from me, go far to make me doubt the accuracy of the
accepted belief that "letter writing has become a lost art." A full mind with a facile pen
makes letter writing a joy, and both of these attributes I think I may fairly claim. My
correspondence with Alfred Cridge was kept up till his death a few years ago, and his
 
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