chapter  6
19 Pages

Religion and Woman's Education

Clergymen were among the most ardent supporters of the ideal of womanhood. They helped define it, adding to its secular characteristics a spiritual dimension unique to the period: the ideal woman was to be the moral guardian of society. Like the lay public, clergymen were divided about the best way to improve women's education. By the 1830s they expressed discontent with the shallow education offered women, urging parents to prepare their daughters for the sacred duties of running a home and raising children. Some, in the 1840s, took part in founding Queen's College for the better education of governesses and, later still, some clergymen suppported the founding of women's colleges in Oxford and Cambridge. They were among those who saw the need for women to become experts within their own sphere, to teach, to run hospitals for women, to organise services for the community. Theirs was a vision of women helping to preserve society.