The schooling of working-class girls in nineteenth century Scotland : the interaction of nationality, class and gender
This thesis examines the interaction of class and gender in nineteenth-century Scottish
education by means of a focus on the schooling of working-class girls and its
relationship to the national educational tradition, with particular reference to the
The first chapter considers general issues of national identity, education and
gender, and the place of women in Scottish educational history.
The second chapter investigates the state of female education in Scotland
before 1872, focusing on the Argyll Commission (1864-1868). It shows that girls
were less likely to be sent to school than boys; that girls stayed at school for a shorter
time than boys; and that many girls were taught outside the parochial system. The
1872 Act tackled these inequalities, but reinforced the gendering of education, notably
in the curriculum.
The third and fourth chapters consider respectively the industrial Lowlands
and the areas outwith the central belt (the Borders, and the Highlands and Islands)
after the 1872 Education Act, with Glasgow and Dundee as major urban case studies
for the former, and Edinburgh and Aberdeen for the latter. Each chapter shows the
importance of the regional economy for working-class girls' education, in addition to
the expectation of domestic duties. The detailed case study of school log books
reveals a continuing, though ameliorated, gender inequality, which was mitigated by
opposition from both parents and teachers to any dilution of the academic content of
girls' schooling by the emphasis, placed by both government policies and feminist
campaigns, on practical domestic skills at the expense of book-learning. However,
Catholic schools welcomed domestic subjects, for the good of the family and the
Catholic community's standing within the wider national community.
The fifth chapter examines the position of the schoolmistress, who, although
in a subordinate position within the profession, still considered herself a partner, albeit
junior, in preserving the traditional educational ideal of universality and meritocracy.
The final chapter concludes that there were sites of conflict (religious, ethnic,
national), all of which concurred on the expectations and assumptions regarding
gender roles, and especially women's place in the home and within the national
community. Nevertheless, the conclusion is that women could play a part in the
educational tradition, though not one of equality with men.