Girls' education in British state schools in the early 1900s
By the webmaster’s mother, 1906-2002
The official purpose of education for girls
Looking back, I think that the general grounding given by the school was very sound, although it was certainly designed to prepare us girls for the sort of life we were expected to lead - to be housewives and mothers. Any education beyond the age of 14 was only for a select few - and not for me.
So 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 also taught to read and write, but it was only very basic.
Household management lessons
The emphasis was on household management:
We were taught how to make a hay box and we cooked a rice pudding in it. I suppose it was a wartime effort on how to make 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'.