Education, Education, Education – for girls in the Georgian era

I have previously looked at employment for 18th century girls, so today we’re going to look at educational establishments for girls.

Lady Jane Mathew and Her Daughters c1790 YCBA

If you were middle or upper class, you would no doubt have been educated, but for the lower classes education may well  have been carried out by the mother in the home, and in a large part, a girl would have learnt the same skills as her mother, whether that be childcare or perhaps some sort of home based work, for example framework knitting.

We know that for girls born into noble families education was often carried out home, with tutors being brought into the household or by a live in governess, rather than the girl attending a school, but for many upper class young ladies they were educated and would perhaps attend boarding school. Sending your daughter to a boarding school could also be quite risky, as it meant your daughter was no longer under your roof and it would be difficult to assess how safe she might be in such a place, despite their seemingly impeccable credentials.

Trade card of Mary and Ann Favell (Eltham), school. c.1755. British Museum

Of course, it was a different situation for young gentlemen, as there were education establishments popping up all over. Once educated, it was common for an affluent young gentleman to go off on the Grand Tour and for others to go to university, or if not suited to academia, perhaps a career working for the East India Company might have been an option, or joining the military.  None of these options were on offer to young ladies.

Sloane House Boarding School. British Museum

Today, I’m going to look at adverts in the newspapers to see what schools offered young women and women who sought employment in them.

The Morning Herald, London seems to have been a popular newspaper for such establishments seeking both pupils and also for employees and there were certain skills required by potential teachers as we can see from these:

17 March 1802

Wanted, as one of the English teachers in a very superior ladies’ boarding school, a lady, not less than thirty, of genteel manners, an informed mind, and capable of teaching the English language, and different kinds of needle-works. It is also absolutely necessary that she should translate and speak French.

and another from 28 August 1807 by a school looking for

A young lady, who thoroughly understands teaching music. If acquainted with the French language, the more agreeable.

and this from 21 January 1806:

Wanted immediately, as an apprentice in an established ladies’ boarding school, a young lady, who upon reasonable terms will be instructed in writing, arithmetic, needlework, grammar, composition, geography, in the French and Italian languages, and in other departments of study requisite to qualify her for a school, or as a private governess. French and Italian are the languages chiefly spoken in the school.

Trade card of The Misses Lankester (London), school. c1800. British Museum

In the St James’s Chronicle 10 February 1801, we see an advert from a widower who had five daughters and was:

Desirous of their education being completed at home, rather than at boarding school. Any lady of respectability, perfectly qualified for such an undertaking, may meet with a very agreeable situation. Preference will be given if accustomed to the tuition of children. Satisfactory references will be expected.

We then move on to look at young ladies who offered their skills as a teacher such as this one potential candidate who, in 1801 offered her skills as an assistant teacher in a respectable school. She advised potential employers that she was

19 years of age and the daughter of a clergyman and that a potential employer should be aware that as this would be her first trial, salary will not be an object.

Which loosely translate to her being prepared to work for very low wages to gain additional skills.

Morning Post 6 July 1803

Wants a situation, in a ladies boarding school,  a young lady, who can teach the French and English language, needlework and the rudiments of geography.

The Sense of Hearing, Philippe Mercier.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

From the adverts for both lessons being offered, and those equipped to teach them, the skills for a young lady would appear to be English and French, with French being a necessity for all young women. Art, needlework, music and geography were lessons appearing in most adverts, but dancing and music lessons, which I thought might have been included appear to have been offered as an extra-curricular  option and would have been taught by a dancing master, who would often offer this at home.

Featured Image

John Richard Comyns of Hylands, Essex, with His Daughters YCBA