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Abstract

In the early nineteenth century, educationalists, whether evangelical, rationalist or romantic, in their approach were united in stressing certain common themes which would prove to be of great significance for women’s education. In England, France and the United States, speculation about child development, drawing on the diverse inheritances of Locke and Rousseau, and on the work of such contemporary writers as Pestalozzi, emphasised the role of family and parents, and especially mothers, in imprinting good and moral lessons upon the child in infancy, in drawing out what was best in the child’s nature. So ‘maternal education’, or the task of the mother as educator and as socialiser became the focus for much important work. In particular, mothers were required to turn their attention to the next generation of educators, their daughters. Such a theme clearly formed one part of that enhancement of the domestic sphere which was such a feature of the early nineteenth century. Some women, and some men, interested in the quality of women’s education, were to carry the argument further: was women’s education to be undertaken only in the interest of later generations, or were those generations better served by first concentrating on women themselves? What could women achieve, through self-culture and self-improvement?

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© Jane Rendall 1985

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  • Jane Rendall

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