Sunday, February 3, 2013

Victorian education for women and the Historical Novel Review: The Folly at Falconbridge Hall by Maggi Andersen

 In 1894 when The Folly at Falconbridge Hall was set, although a woman could sit in on lectures, she could not obtain a university degree.

 Even at the beginning of the 20th century it was very difficult for women to obtain a university education. In 1870 Emily Davies and Barbara Bodichon helped to set up Girton College, the first university college for women, but it was not recognised by the university authorities. In 1880 Newnham College was established at Cambridge University. By 1910 there were just over a thousand women students at Oxford and Cambridge. However, they had to obtain permission to attend lectures and were not allowed to take degrees.
Without a university degree it was very difficult for women to enter the professions. After a long struggle the medical profession had allowed women to become doctors. Even so, by 1900 there were only 200 women doctors. It was not until 1910 that women were allowed to become accountants and bankers. However, there were still no women diplomats, barristers or judges.
Before 1920, women were not allowed to matriculate (ie to be become members of the University) or to graduate. From the late 1870s, women had attended lectures, taken examinations, and had gained honours in those examinations. They were, however, unable to receive the degree to which, had they been men, their examinations would have entitled them.
It wasn't until 1920 that a woman could graduate. 

Release date: May 8th 2013. Pre-order at Amazon:

Historical Novel Review: Folly at Falconbridge Hall by Maggi Andersen: PUBLISHER’S BLURB Vanessa Ashley felt herself qualified for a position as governess, until offered the position at Falconbridge Hall. Le...

Blurb: Vanessa Ashley felt herself qualified for a position as governess, until offered the position at Falconbridge Hall. Left penniless after the deaths of her artist father and suffragette mother, Vanessa Ashley draws on her knowledge of art, politics, and history to gain employment as a governess. She discovers that Julian, Lord Falconbridge, requires a governess for his ten-year-old daughter Blyth at Falconbridge Hall, in the countryside outside London. Lord Falconbridge is a scientist and dedicated lepidopterist who is about to embark on an extended expedition to the Amazon. An enigmatic man, he takes a keen interest in his daughter's education. As she prepares her young charge, Vanessa finds the girl detached and aloof. As Vanessa learns more about Falconbridge Hall, more questions arise. Why doesn't Blythe feel safe in her own home? Why is the death of her mother, once famed society beauty Clara, never spoken of? And why did the former governess leave so suddenly without giving notice?

Excerpt: Blythe danced over the grass like a puppy released from its leash. “Let’s not go back to the house yet,” she begged. “Would you like to see the rose garden and the fountain?”
Vanessa smiled. “Very well, lead on Macduff.”
They followed a stone path to a wooden seat beneath a rose arbor and sat to enjoy the soothing sounds of water cascading into a pool from a marble lady’s upheld urn.
“Why did you leave your home in Cornwall?” Blythe asked.
“I had to earn my living, and your father kindly offered me the position.”
“Did you always wish to be a governess?”
“Not exactly. I did wish to have a profession and put my education to good use. Do you know, Blythe, women can study at Oxford University, although they aren’t able to gain a degree as yet. I expect that to change during your lifetime.”
Blythe’s eyes widened. “I would like to study at Oxford.”
“That’s a very admirable goal. You must work hard at your lessons to achieve it. I’ll set you a task. You can choose a famous woman to study. We’ll search your father’s library for information.”
Blythe picked a rosehip and examined it. “How does a lady become famous?”
“Excelling at some achievement. Well, let’s see. Mary Kingsley is an explorer. She traveled to Africa much as your father does. Marie Curie is a scientist. Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole reformed nursing. Lilian Murray is the first woman dentist. Marianne North was an artist who traveled the world and painted.”
“Can I study two of them?”
“Yes, if you like.”
“Then I’ll pick Marie Curie and Mary Kingsley. I should like to be both a scientist and an explorer like Father.” She glanced up eagerly. “Here’s Father now.”
Lord Falconbridge came down the steps towards them. Blythe rushed to him. “Father, Miss Ashley is teaching me about famous women explorers and scientists. I should like to go to Oxford and study. Do you think I could?”
His lordship’s eyes rested on Vanessa. “We shall have to see, Blythe. You have selected a mount?”
“Thank you, yes.” Vanessa hoped his lordship approved of her modern teaching methods. “A small, well-mannered beast.”
“We’ll have you riding as well as Blythe in no time.” His lordship looked alarmingly purposeful.
Vanessa very much doubted it but made no reply.
“You do like horses, don’t you, Miss Ashley?” Blythe sounded incredulous that anyone wouldn’t.
“I like all animals.” Vanessa recalled uneasily she’d been bitten on the arm by a bad-tempered pony as a child.
With a feather-light tap on Blythe’s head, Lord Falconbridge walked in the direction of the stables. Vanessa watched him, enjoying his easy stride. The man was inherently graceful.


Historical romance, Victorian romance, mystery, England, Maggi Andersen.