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The Education of the Victorian Woman

One of the great controversies of the Victorian period was whether women ought to be allowed to obtain a university education. Arguments raged on both sides of the issue, with men (and women) declaring that such an education, besides being wholly unnecessary for the female mind, would transform women from all that was good and pure and dainty and feminine to... well, men! Many felt that the female mind was incapable of handling higher education without actually damaging a woman's delicate mental system.


I've arranged this section chronologically to illustrate the trends in thinking on this topic.

The Disadvantages of Higher Education (GOP 1882)
"Woman was created as an helpmeet for man, not as his equal or rival; and woman nowadays is very apt to forget that fact," writes the (presumably male) author of this article. But don't miss the rebuttal from a 14-year-old girl on the next page!
A Lance for the Lily (GOP 1889)
"It is difficult to exaggerate the harm which has already resulted from the so-called higher education of women." The realm of reason, says this author, is reserved for man; the realm of emotions, for women.
A Perplexed Mother (GOP 1889)
This mother wonders where her daughter, in her quest for education, will ever learn the virtues of neatness and tidiness!
A Collegiate "At Home", by Anne Beale (GOP 1891)
A celebration of the opening of a college, attracting, this author notes, both ladies and gentlemen, suggesting that opposition to "the higher education of women" is melting away.
Thoughts on the Higher Education of Women, by A Man (GOP 1891)
This gentleman doesn't object so much to "educated" women as "bookish" women, and urges women to become widely, rather than deeply, read.
On Shades in Bluestockings, by A.T. Schofield, MD (GOP 1896)
A bit of a humorous (but not disapproving) look at the educated female.
Girls as Students, by Lily Watson (GOP 1900)
"Education is the business of the whole life," says this author, who takes a look at the current status of women's education.



Our Own Colleges (GOP 1880)
An overview of colleges offering higher education to women.
Our Own Schools (GOP 1880)
An overview of the best public schools for women.
University Degrees for Women: Their History and Value, by Katherine St. John Conway (GOP 1895)


A Talk About the Cambridge Local Examinations, by Anne Mercier (GOP 1881)
Cambridge System of Instruction by Correspondence (GOP 1881)
Durham Degrees for Women (GOP 1881)
Girton College, by J.A. Owen (GOP 1880)
On the origins of the first residential college for women in the UK.
The Dream of Princess Ida (GOP 1884)
More on the founding of Girton College.
Presentation Day at London University, by a Lady Graduate (GOP 1898)
The North London Collegiate School for Girls (GOP 1882)
Education for Women at Oxford (GOP 1884)
The Summer Meeting at Oxford (GOP 1890)
More in extension classes.


Help for Study at Home (GOP 1881, 1887)
An 1881 article about the Students' Branch of the Christian Women's Education Union, with an update in 1887.
How to Improve One's Education (GOP 1881)
Tips on improving one's education outside of the classroom.
Instruction by Correspondence (GOP 1881)
Among the advantages of this system is the fact that "we can work for our correspondence teacher without infringing in the least upon our household duties"!

The London Society for the Extension of University Teaching (GOP 1890)
A form of continuing education for women who are not attending a formal college or university.
What is the London County Council Doing for Girls? by Lily Watson (GOP 1897)
A look at some of the educational opportunities being made available to London women.
The Y.W.C.A. (GOP 1883, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1890)
Various articles on the purpose and activities of the YWCA, including its classes for women.

Examinations and How to Prepare for Them, by James Mason (GOP 1881)
Useful Hints for Examination Candidates, by the Rev. Thomas B. Willson (GOP 1886)


Art-Student Life in the Forties (GOP 1894)
A Ladies' Studio - Paris (GOP 1891)
On training in a Parisian art studio.
Art Students and Some Art Schools, by Florence Sophie Davson (GOP 1900)
St. George's Hall, Edinburgh: Art Correspondence Classes (GOP 1885)
A London Art School, by Sophie Turney (GOP 1889)
A student's account of her artistic training. "My specialty was horses, and it seemed such a physical relief to let one's pencil go with a good fling in a horse galloping, rearing, etc... The life in this paper may sound hard and irksome... But everyone seemed very happy, and in earnest."

Music Students and Their Work, by Florence Sophie Davson (GOP 1900)
Musical Degrees for Our Girls, by Annie W. Patterson (GOP 1898)
My Musical Training; or, What I Did with 100 Pounds, by Anna Williams (GOP 1888)
A student's account of her musical training in Italy.


Ascension [Graduation] Day at St. John's Servants School, by Anne Beale (GOP 1889)
"It is pretty to see the little regiment of domestic soldiers perform all the evolutions of Swedish drill, and if their industrial training be equal to their physical, they will make very good servants indeed."
Cookery Classes, by Alice King (GOP 1885)
How to Obtain Kindergarten Certificates (GOP 1891)
How to become a qualified kindergarten instructor.
A Visit to Swanley College [of Horticulture], by F.R. Horner (GOP 1902)


The Physical Education of Girls, by Mrs. Wallace Arnold (GOP 1884)
A well-illustrated article on Victorian modes of exercise.
Physical Culture for Girls, by Gordon Stables, M.D., R.N. ("Medicus") (GOP 1900)
The Poetry of Motion, by Dora de Blaquière (GOP 1895)
Illustrated piece on Delsarte's program of physical exercise and training for girls.
Copyright © 2017 by
Moira Allen.
All rights reserved.

Magazine Abbreviations:
CFM = Cassell's Family Magazine GOP = Girl's Own Paper ILA = Illustrated London Almanack S = The Strand
AM = Atlantic Monthly C = Century Magazine D = Demorest's Monthly Magazine G = Godey's Lady's Book H = Harper's Monthly
Find out more about the magazines used on this site!
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