The guidance and influencing of girls leaving school at fourteen : a study in the content, methods and contradictions in this process based on the girls' departments of the London County Council maintained elementary schools 1904-1924
This examination of the pressures and influences on London elementary schoolgirls is set in a period when local authority and state pressures for conformity over attendance and health regulations were placing increasing burdens on homes and families. Simultaneously emphasis on the training of daughters in domesticity and infant care, under professional guidance at school, was becoming a powerful obligation on educators. This obligation was expected to reach far beyond mere technical training, contributing to a structure of moral control with supervision extending beyond school into early years of employment. The newly established London County Council Education Authority, both in size and in the variety of elementary schools, offers rich material on the operation of this process of attempted control and of conflicts engendered within it. Attempts to establish a coherent and consistent moral structure for elementary schoolgirls presented acute difficulties which are considered in this thesis. Thus pressure for the teaching of domestic subjects met counter demands that general education for girls should have priority, with any narrowing of their horizons towards domesticity being resisted. Infant care tuition, launched with strong government backing, alarmed some educationists lest by stimulating girls' curiosity it might weaken the taboo on sex education. Simultaneously however, others sought to extend instruction in sex matters for the protection of young girls, or to advance eugenist beliefs. The fast-growing cinema, seen as a morally dubious form of mass entertainment, had also to be scrutinised and controlled. During the war years a degree of resistanm emanating from teachers, to the brutality of current propaganda marked a victory for the ideals of duty and service inculcated particularly for girls. By contrast attempts by teachers and administrators to extend moral control after schooldays largely failed, undermined by suspicion and impatience from home and from former pupils, by demands of employers and by post-war economies In education.