Religion: Of Raikes and Ragamuffins

Sunday schools turn 200 and are showing their age

Two centuries ago, a plumpish, well-dressed man went about the slums of Gloucester, England, inquiring "if there were any decent, well-disposed women in the neighborhood." The man was Robert Raikes, a rich philanthropist and newspaper publisher. He was looking for women who were "well disposed" to teach reading, and he found four of them. For a fee of a shilling, he later recalled, they agreed to take "as many children as I should send them upon the Sundays."

The children met in private homes. They studied...

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