The education and employment of girls in Norwich, 1870-1939
This thesis seeks to explore the relationship between education and employment in
Norwich, a city which was said to offer `exceptional opportunities' for women's work. A
major aim of education was the socialisation of children and, for girls, this resulted in a
gendered curriculum with needlework taking up a large proportion of school time.
Although girls' education aimed to prepare them for a domestic future rather than for the
workplace, the skills learnt in school in the nineteenth century fitted the requirements of
the local labour market surprisingly well. Girls who had left school were also able to
choose from a variety of trade classes in Norwich which helped them in the workplace.
Jobs were available in domestic service, shoemaking, clothes making and food and drink
factories. Girls with a secondary education had few opportunities outside teaching as
local employers were slow to recognise the benefits of employing women in shops and
Changes in the system of teacher training made it more difficult for poor girls to enter the
profession but, after World War I, girls with a secondary education were in demand in the
clerical and retail sectors. Girls leaving elementary schools were most likely to work in
shoe factories where mechanisation created work for women. Whilst Norwich was an
`oasis of unemployment' in the 1920s and 1930s, school leavers usually found it easy to
obtain work, although there were few opportunities for advancement. This thesis argues
that girls were constrained by interlinking issues of attitudes towards women's role,
poverty, respectability and social status.