Fictions of Female Education in the Nineteenth Century
Routledge – 2009 – 188 pages
Seeking to understand how literary texts both shaped and reflected the century's debates over adolescent female education, this book examines fictional works and historical documents featuring descriptions of girls' formal educational experiences between the 1810s and the 1890s. Alves argues that the emergence of schoolgirl culture in nineteenth-century America presented significant challenges to subsequent constructions of normative femininity. The trope of the adolescent schoolgirl was a carrier of shifting cultural anxieties about how formal education would disrupt the customary maid-wife-mother cycle and turn young females off to prevailing gender roles. By tracing the figure of the schoolgirl at crossroads between educational and other institutions - in texts written by and about girls from a variety of racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds - this book transcends the limitations of "separate spheres" inquiry and enriches our understanding of how girls negotiated complex gender roles in the nineteenth century.
Introduction: Miss Schooled: Representing Adolescent Female Education in Nineteenth-Century America. 1. “Oh, I am homesick at the idea of a school and a master”: Negotiating Domestic Education in Elizabeth Stoddard’s The Morgesons 2. To Teach and to Cure: Medical Interventions into Female Education and Oliver Wendell Holmes’s Elsie Venner: A Romance of Destiny 3. Reading, Writing, and Re-presenting: The Newspaper and the Schoolgirl in the Wreath of Cherokee Rosebuds and S. Alice Callahan’s Wynema: A Child of the Forest 4. “How shall we ever get out of slavery?”: Frances E. W. Harper’s Trial and Triumph and Black Female Education in the Post-Reconstruction Era. Epilogue: Telling Tales Out of School
Jaime Osterman Alves is Assistant Professor of Literature in the Master of Arts in Teaching Program at Bard College.