Fictions of Female Education in the Nineteenth Century: 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Fictions of Female Education in the Nineteenth Century

1st Edition

By Jaime Osterman Alves


188 pages | 9 B/W Illus.

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Seeking to understand how literary texts both shaped and reflected the century's debates over adolescent female education, this book examines fictional works and historical documents featuring descriptions of girls' formal educational experiences between the 1810s and the 1890s. Alves argues that the emergence of schoolgirl culture in nineteenth-century America presented significant challenges to subsequent constructions of normative femininity. The trope of the adolescent schoolgirl was a carrier of shifting cultural anxieties about how formal education would disrupt the customary maid-wife-mother cycle and turn young females off to prevailing gender roles. By tracing the figure of the schoolgirl at crossroads between educational and other institutions - in texts written by and about girls from a variety of racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds - this book transcends the limitations of "separate spheres" inquiry and enriches our understanding of how girls negotiated complex gender roles in the nineteenth century.


"Gives a range of valuable insights into the pedagogical practices used to teach women during the nineteenth century and about the psychosocial effects of these practices. This book also shows the importance of using fictionalised accounts as part of a broader analysis of the socio-historical context. The vignettes it describes and the questions it poses (particularly with respect to minority ethnic education) will be of use in teaching and research and are likely to inspire further inquiry using these methods." - Sarah Evans, Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography

Table of Contents

Introduction: Miss Schooled: Representing Adolescent Female Education in Nineteenth-Century America. 1. “Oh, I am homesick at the idea of a school and a master”: Negotiating Domestic Education in Elizabeth Stoddard’s The Morgesons 2. To Teach and to Cure: Medical Interventions into Female Education and Oliver Wendell Holmes’s Elsie Venner: A Romance of Destiny 3. Reading, Writing, and Re-presenting: The Newspaper and the Schoolgirl in the Wreath of Cherokee Rosebuds and S. Alice Callahan’s Wynema: A Child of the Forest 4. “How shall we ever get out of slavery?”: Frances E. W. Harper’s Trial and Triumph and Black Female Education in the Post-Reconstruction Era. Epilogue: Telling Tales Out of School

About the Author

Jaime Osterman Alves is Assistant Professor of Literature in the Master of Arts in Teaching Program at Bard College.

About the Series

Studies in American Popular History and Culture

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / United States / 19th Century
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
LITERARY CRITICISM / American / General