When the Ladies Committee was set up, Mary Ann McCracken was one of the first to join. Mary Ann’s family had been involved in raising the money to construct the Poor House, and designing the building itself. However, Mary Ann was particularly interested in the welfare of the children.
Mary Ann had big dreams for these children, who she viewed as ‘her own’. Mary Ann’s first project on the Ladies Committee was to establish an infant school. The idea of infant education was very new in this period, with the first one opening in Belfast in the 1820s for the merchant class children. Mary Ann was determined that one should open in the Poor House. Her first proposal was denied by the Men’s Committee as they didn’t have the time, the money or the resources. Mary Ann said nothing more for a few months and went back to the men, again she got the same response.
The third letter from Mary Ann, sent in September 1830, was slightly different stating that they ladies had been running an infant school for over 2 weeks and ask the men to “aid them in completing what they have commenced…”
It seems that it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission as the Gentlemen agreed to the additional requests made by Mary Ann and her very determined Committee. The Ladies Committee took particular interest in all the children, especially those in the infant school. There are numerous requests to the men’s committee for money for toys and educational equipment.