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On the actual condition of the teaching and discipline in a school of this period, much light is thrown at first hand in the very entertaining diary of a school girl published in the current number of the "Modern Language Quarterly."
The girl was Miss Elizabeth Firth, the great friend of Mr Patrick Bronté and his wife, and the godmother of Elizabeth and Anne Bronté. The school was at Wakefield, and was one of the most noted of its day. It was kept by Miss Richmal Mangnall, the famous author of "Mangnall's Questions."
The diary covers the last two years of Miss Firth's school
The "ladies,"--they are never called girls, and they all, except the very naughty ones, have the title Miss before their surnames, -are divided by age into the " great ladies" and the "little ladies." They read, or had read to them by Miss Mangnall, "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," "Rokeby," and the "Vicar of Wakefield." That was their Literature.
They had geography on the globe, with latitudes and longitudes.
The diary gives these records :
"Our Class of geography were two hours looking for the Emperor of Persia's name. My governess (presumably Miss Mangnall) told us it was Mahomet."
"My governess told our class of geography that if we did not know the rivers off we might go away. They all went but myself, though some of them knew them all.”
"We had a brain-day in Geography," when the ladies had a viva voce examination the day was distinguished as a "Brainday"-"I had seven mistakes, which was the least of any one."
The writer was rewarded for her proficiency in geography by the gift of an inkstand from Miss Mangnall, and of a silver knife from her teacher.
There is only one reference to English History:—
"I got the names of the Kings of England"—(no mention of the queens).
But she also notes that "She began of reading ancient history."
French and Drawing are dismissed very briefly.
"I began reading of Telemachus.
I began of painting my roses."
The backbone of the education at Miss Mangnall's Academy was evidently-Geography, Spelling, the Church Catechism and Verses. And the spelling of the diary is by no means faultless.
"We had dictionary excused. Several of the ladies were sent to bed for missing at spelling. Those who did not lose walked in the ring field." "Miss Fayrer gave 270 words of dictionary for poking; I had ten." Miss Firth's deportment appears to have been as good as her geography!
'Miss Ropers were sent to Coventry till they could say their Catechism. Some of the ladies had the Epistle and Gospel, twenty-eight verses, for writing on their desks."
The teaching was evidently entirely that of facts, and these, as in the instance of Mahomet, reputed by Miss Mangnall to be King of Persia, were not always distinguished for accuracy!
Of the moral tone among the "ladies" and the absence of training in honour and unselfishness and public spirit, the diary is significant.
Miss Mangnall's pupils were evidently very naughty. They were greedy, noisy, and untruthful. They stole each other's cake, they gossiped and raised evil reports about each other's characters and the characters of their nearest relations. They fought with each other.
For all these delinquencies they are punished severely. They are made to suffer the indignity of wearing a dunce's cap and have papers pinned on them, describing their faults of omission and commission. They are whipped and sent to bed with or without their tea.
But there is no indication of any attempt to distinguish between faults of manner and morals. The "ladies" " are
rewarded by having good things to eat. They are punished indiscriminately for telling fibs and stealing and "ippertinance” and putting their feet on the fender.
Oct. 30th. "There was a petticoat about, and we were not allowed to wash till after supper, and threatened with twenty verses if it were not owned. It was not owned." The diary is dramatically silent as to what happened next. Perhaps, as on another occasion, they were "whiped" (spelt with one p) for obstinacy!
One may assume that Miss Firth turned out a charming woman in spite of the education which she received. Brilliant exceptions there doubtless were, but is it any wonder that the majority of the girls brought up in such a moral atmosphere should have gone back to their homes selfish, prejudiced, and helpless, with no object beyond their own pleasures, and no appreciation or understanding of their duties, and of obligations to themselves and others? This is a type of a school which provided for the rich daughters of England. For the poorer there was no provision at all.
Between 1830 and 1850 "Reform " was in the air, and amongst the questions raised was the education of girls.
By 1852 the conviction had been brought home to the supporters of the "Governesses Benevolent Institution" that if women teachers were to be self-supporting they must be competent; and to this end they must be educated. Classes must be formed-tests of knowledge and competency must be instituted. A sum of money was collected by Miss Murray, one of the Queen's Maids of Honour, and devoted to this purpose. Some of the distinguished professors of King's College offered their help; among them were Professor Maurice and Dean Trench and the Rev. Charles Kingsley. Before long a house in Harley Street was taken for the purpose of "holding classes in all branches of female learning," and Queen's College was started. The organization was in direct imitation of King's College, all the professors receiving a pro
portion of the College fees. In 1853 it was incorporated by Royal Charter.
Each class was opened with a lecture, in which the lecturer introduced and almost apologised for his subject, and for his share in the inauguration of the new movement.
Thus Professor Maurice apologised for using the word "College" and somewhat rashly made a forecast about the capacity of women to learn mathematics.
"We are aware that our pupils are not likely to advance far in mathematics, but we believe that if they learn really what they do learn they will not have got what is dangerous but what is safe." He saw that this is the root of the whole matter, "if they learn really what they do learn."-And again, "I cannot conceive that a young lady can feel her mind in a more dangerous state than it was, because she has gained a truer glimpse into the conditions under which the world in which it has pleased God to place her, actually exists."
Latin was to be taught not for its own sake but "as one road, and perhaps the shortest, to a thorough study of English." Miss Zimmern, who gives a very full account of these times in her book, remarks: "These explanations strike us quaintly now--it is hard to realize how great was the terror of learned ladies which in those days it was fashionable to assume."
I am not at all sure that the fashion of assuming this terror of "learned ladies" has died out even at the present time.
Next came Bedford College, for the first ten years of its life a school rather than a college-its beginning in classes held at her own home by the founder, Mrs Reid.
Her name is perpetuated through the Reid Exhibitions, and Scholarships awarded in connection with the London University Examinations.
To Queen's College-to which, then as now, a school was attached-came as pupils the first and greatest of the Public School Mistresses, Miss Frances Buss and Miss Beale,
whose names are always to be had in reverence by all who belong to the profession of teachers, and by all who have in any way benefited by the educational movement in which they were such notable pioneers.
In the conception of their work, and what it meant and involved in its developments, as well as in the performance of its duties and details, they stand forth in the lengthening roll of those who have done great service educationally to the girls and women of England.
In 1856 Miss Beale was appointed Principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College, which had been opened five years previously as a Proprietary School to provide for the girls in the town the same privileges as those enjoyed by the boys at Cheltenham College. The subjects taught in these early days were Liturgy, history, grammar, arithmetic, French, music, drawing, and needlework. There is no mention of mathematics or science or classics, or of physical training.
While Miss Beale was working at Cheltenham Miss Buss was building up the School which now bears her name, and which was to a greater degree than Cheltenham College typical of the first High Schools.
The North London Collegiate School was at first a private school.
In 1872 Miss Buss, seeing that public recognition and public support give the best security for the permanence of Institutions, placed the School in the hands of Trustees, and it became a Public School.
It was subsequently endowed with lands and tenements by the City Companies of Brewers and Clothworkers.
The schools having been started, the next step was to obtain University recognition for them, and here Miss Beale and Miss Buss had the valuable co-operation of Miss Emily Davis, the founder of Girton.
Miss Beale invited University Examiners to inspect and report on the Ladies' College.