Victorian London - Women - Education

'My Wife is a Woman of Mind'

George Cruikshank, Comic Almanack, 1847

Teach young women from their childhood upwards that marriage is their single career, and it is inevitable that they should look upon every hour which is not spent in promoting this sublime end and aim as so much subtracted from life. Penetrated with unwholesome excitement in one part of their existence, they are penetrated with killing ennui in the next. If mothers would only add to their account of marriage as the end of a woman's existence - which may be right or it may not -. a definition of marriage as an association with a reasonable and reflective being, they would speedily effect a revolution in the present miserable system. As it is, the universe to her is only a collection of rich bachelors in search of wives, and of odious rivals who are contending with her for one or more of these two wary prizes. She thinks of nothing except her private affairs. She is indifferent to politics, to literature - in a word, to anything that requires thought. She reads novels of a kind, because novels are all about Love, and love had once something to do with marriage, her own peculiar and absorbing business. Beyond this her mind does not stir.

Saturday Review, 1867


Punch, Almanack, 1873


Miss Hypatia Jones, Spinster of Arts (on her way to refreshment), informs Professor Parallax, F.R.S., that "Young men do very well to look at, or to dance with, or even to marry, and all that kind of thing!" but that "as to enjoying any rational conversation with any man under fifty, that is completely out of the question!"

Punch, January 24, 1874


A Lay of the Oxford Victory.

THE Woman of the Future! She'll be deeply read, that's certain,
With all the education gained at Newnham or at Girton;
She'll puzzle men in Algebra with horrible quadratics,
Dynamics, and the mysteries of higher mathematics;
Or, if she turns to classic tomes a literary roamer,
She'll give you bits of HORACE or sonorous lines from HOMER.

You take a maiden in to dine, and find, with consternation,
She scorns the light frivolities of modern conversation;
And not for her the latest bit of fashionable chatter,
Her pretty head is well-nigh full of more important matter;
You talk of Drama or Burlesque, theatric themes pursuing,
She only thinks of what the Dons at Oxford may he doing.

A female controversialist will tackle you quite gaily,
With scraps from Pearson on the Creed, or extracts culled from PALEY;
And, if you parry these homethrusts just like a wary fencer,
She'll floor you with some STUART MILL, or else with HERBERT SPENCER.
In fact, unless with all such lore you happen to be laden,
You'd better shun, if you've a chance, an educated maiden.

The Woman of The Future may be very learned-looking,
But dare we ask if she'll know aught of housekeeping or cooking;
She'll read far more, and that is well, than empty-headed beauties,
But has she studied with it all a woman's chiefest duties?
We wot she'll ne'er acknowledge, till her heated brain grows cooler
That Woman, not the Irishman, should be' the true home-ruler.

O pedants of these later days, who go on undiscerning,
To overload a woman's brain and cram our girls with learning,
You'll make a woman half a man, the souls of parents vexing,
To find that all the gentle sex this process is unsexing.
Leave one or two nice girls before the sex your system smothers,
Or what on earth will poor men do for sweethearts, wives, and mothers?

Punch, May 10, 1884

'When you are ten years older, you'll know a good deal more about young women as they're turned out in these times. You'll have heard the talk of men who have been fools enough to marry choice specimens. When common sense has a chance of getting in a word with you, you'll understand what I now tell you. Wherever you look now-a-days there's sham and rottenness; but the most worthless creature living is one of these trashy, flashy girls,--the kind of girl you see everywhere, high and low,--calling themselves "ladies,"--thinking themselves too good for any honest, womanly work. Town and country, it's all the same. They're educated; oh yes, they're educated! What sort of wives do they make, with their education? What sort of mothers are they? Before long, there'll be no such thing as a home. They don't know what the word means. They'd like to live in hotels, and trollop about the streets day and night. There won't be any servants much longer; you're lucky if you find one of the old sort, who knows how to light a fire or wash a dish. Go into the houses of men with small incomes; what do you find but filth and disorder, quarrelling and misery? Young men are bad enough, I know that; they want to begin where their fathers left off, and if they can't do it honestly, they'll embezzle or forge. But you'll often find there's a worthless wife at the bottom of it, --worrying and nagging because she has a smaller house than some other woman, because she can't get silks and furs, and wants to ride in a cab instead of an omnibus. It is astounding to me that they don't get their necks wrung. Only wait a bit; we shall come to that presently!'

George Gissing, In the Year of Jubilee, 1894 see also Mary H. Krout in A Looker-On in London - click here