Christina de Bellaigue’s Educating Women: Schooling and Identity in England and France, 1800-1867 explores stereotypes about women’s boarding schools on both sides of the English-French Channel. In the process de Bellaigue identifies the basis in reality which many of the most widespread stereotypes had, including: the socially grasping schoolmistress; the schoolmistress as a gentlewoman fallen on hard times; the short-lived nature of many schools; the stress laid on the teaching of “accomplishments”; and the idea that preparing women for their domestic role was the ultimate goal of an education. However, she also simultaneously undermines these stereotypes by supplying nuance and context through a careful study of life writings, prescriptive literature, fiction, letters, and bureaucratic records. Finally, she demonstrates the significant overlap but also critical differences in women’s and girls’ daily lives in boarding schools on both sides of the channel.

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Copyright © 2011 H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. This article first published on H-Education (June 2010).

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