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Monday, 6 March 2017

No Dreaming Spires for Jane!

My latest feature for Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine discusses the limited education available for girls and women in late Georgian times. Jane and her sister Cassandra could not go to university like their father George, and brothers James and Henry, who went to St John’s College, Oxford.
Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. 

Girls’ education was designed to prepare them for the marriage ‘market’ and their future lives as wives and mothers. Authors like Mary Wollstonecraft and Catherine Macaulay argued passionately that girls should have as good an education as boys - but no higher education colleges were open to women until over three decades after Jane Austen's death.
Cartoon: ‘Farmer Giles & his wife shewing off their daughter Betty to their neighbours, on her return from school. Gillray, 1809. Courtesy Library of Congress LC-USZC2-3803.

Update 7 March: For some reason none of my replies to comments are showing online - so many thanks to Tony for all the informative comments!


  1. It always gets to me Sue when people question Shakespeare's authorship. (I will get to the Jane point in a moment)The main argument is that he received a minimal education, perhaps a bit of Latin and history at the Grammar School in Stratford and also he never travelled to Italy and so he couldn't possibly have written those plays.
    Jane's education was piecemeal at best. Thomas Hardy, with his rural working background couldn't have been much better and D. H. Lawrence must have struggled. What seems to come across is that bright intelligent people with a thirst for thinking, analysisng, questioning,in a natural way perhaps do better than those who have a formal education. Theses writers had time to be creative and learn independently. Its a great argument for more creativity in schools and letting children follow their own interests. But of course we do tend to have a rigid,
    frozen view of what good education is. I'll get off my soapbox now. Sorry Sue.

  2. Fortunately she had access to many books...and as for college...perhaps her fun intelligent books persuaded many that women could think...a first step to letting women in college.