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A Lady’s Education

Had she possessed greater leisure for the service of her girls, she would probably have supposed it unnecessary, for they were under the care of a governess, with proper masters, and could want nothing more. Mansfield Park Excerpted from The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible yet Elegant Guide to Her World Most young women were educated by a combination of teachers, all working towards the ultimate goal of producing an elegant creature who would take the ton by storm—or at least escape becoming a spinster. Here are some of those responsible for her lessons: Parents In some households, a girl’s mother taught her to read and write and do basic arithmetic, and perhaps some rudimentary French. Her father also might have been involved in her instruction, particularly if he were a member of the clergy. This may have been all the formal education a young woman received, unless her parents hired a governess or sent her to school around age ten. A Governess A good governess taught a young lady history, geography, and languages; to write in and elegant hand; to draw, sew, and do fancy needlework; to play the pianoforte and possibly the harp; and to carry herself with confidence and elegance. The governess stayed with the family until all the young ladies of the house were married, and sometimes she remained in a family’s employ as a companion to the mother or unmarried daughters. Masters Visiting masters supplemented a young woman’s education with advanced instruction in music, drawing,

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