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Title: English middle-class girls' high schools and 'domestic subjects', 1871-1914
Author: Nakagomi, S.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7428 9783
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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How ‘domestic subjects’, variously defined as cookery, dress-making, housewifery, laundry, needlework were transformed in English middle-class girls’ high schools between 1871 and 1914 is the subject of this thesis, dates deliberately chosen to build upon the work of other scholars. Changing notions of middle-class women’s positions in society and the economy influenced the development of these schools, their academic curriculum and the characteristics of ‘domestic subjects’. Middle-class girls’ education and the pioneer headmistresses such as Miss Frances M. Buss, founder of North London Collegiate School (NLCS) and Camden School for Girls (CSG), have been extensively studied by feminist historians of education such as Delamont (1978). The Victorian women’s movements were seen as a struggle for sexual and social equality through secondary and higher education. Miss Sara A. Burstall as headmistress of Manchester High School for Girls (MHSG) introduced ‘domestic subjects’ in 1900. Delamont saw this as a challenge to what earlier pioneers had achieved in the academic curriculum. ‘Domestic subjects’ had arguably been provided to meet the needs of girls with lower academic ability and/or lower social backgrounds within the high schools. I have found that the curriculum offered in girls’ high schools throughout the period 1871 – 1914 was more gender-specific than previous scholars had considered. ‘Domestic subjects’ such as cookery, dress-making had always been included even when the pioneering headmistresses were also struggling to achieve academic goals. The originality of my thesis lies in the comprehensive and detailed documentary analysis of previously unexplored sources for the period 1870-1914 of the Association of Head Mistresses (AHM), founded by Miss Buss, and those of the three case study school archives (NLCS, CSG and MHSG) and also books written by contemporary headmistresses such as Miss Burstall. Through a detailed analysis of these materials, I have revised the history of the transformation of ‘domestic subjects’. My findings show different stories of the transformation of ‘domestic subjects’ in the three case study schools which reflected the changing positions of middle class women in universities, labour market and home. First, ‘domestic subjects’ were a part of girls’ high school curriculum from their inception. Second, three stages were revealed with different contents, aims, staff and pupils as: a) separate compulsory subjects (1870s-1890s), b) special classes under the category of ‘technical’ education (1880s – 1890s) c) comprehensive special courses (after 1900). Third, the six headmistresses in the three schools reacted differently to the changing social, economic and educational environments considering the financial states of schools and demands of pupils and their parents. Fourth, staff and pupils involved in ‘domestic subjects’ were not limited to those with lower academic ability and/or lower social backgrounds of their parents. In conclusion, the changing characteristics of ‘domestic subjects’ in girls’ high schools can be seen as a move from Miss Buss to Miss Burstall: a difficult balancing act of academic and feminine roles at home, at school and in employment and responding to individual girls, local and parental needs and the growing role of the state, through its national Board of Education (BOE).
Supervisor: Martin, J. ; David, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available