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Victorian town schools


Girls' education in British state schools in the early 1900s

school lessons in housekeeping

The fundamental differences in the curriculum for boys and for girls with the emphasis on housekeeping and motherhood for girls. This page explains how it was done.


Extracted from the memoirs of the webmaster's mother(1906-2002) and edited by the webmaster

The official purpose of education for girls

Looking back, I think that the school curriculum for girls was certainly designed to prepare us for the sort of life we were expected to lead - to be housewives and mothers. We were taught to read, write and do mental arithmetic, but it was only very basic. Any education beyond the age of 14 was only for a select few who passed the 11-plus exam - and not for me. Girls were not even prepared for it and certainly not put in for it.

There was no such thing as maths, but being able to do quick and accurate calculations in one's head was deemed a good education for future housewives. I was always good at mental arithmetic, and when the teacher gave us children a question, my hand was always the first up from my sixty odd class mates.

We were, though, allowed to participate on what were known as extra-curricular-activities.

Household management lessons

The emphasis was on household management:

We were taught how to make a hay box for an oven, and we cooked a rice pudding in it. I suppose it was a lesson in making the best use of resources but it wasn't successful as far as I was concerned. Although the rice pudding was edible, anyone would have to be very pushed indeed to bother with it. I much preferred the baked rice puddings that my mother made on the kitchen range.

We girls were also shown how to grow mustard and cress on pieces of flannel in a saucer of water. I suppose that taught us some elementary biology as well as preparing us for self-help with feeding a family.

We also had needlework classes making pillowcases by hand, using what was called a 'run and fell seam'.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.

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