The advancements made in Victorian England socially, politically and technologically resulted in the questioning of how to grow and keep up with the times while still maintaining the core traditions that the Victorians idealised. One of the main debates in Victorian England was the discussion around the proper place and characteristics of women. Writers during the time period incorporated their personal opinions and outlooks on where women should be placed in society. Two writers and their pieces which will be further examined in this piece are Sarah Stickney Ellis’s The Daughters of England: Their Position in Society, Character and Responsibilities, and Charles Dickens Hard Times.
Ellis ran a school for girls but didn’t support intellectual advancement for women. She educated her students to become “capable managers of their homes, from which they could best facilitate the advancement of their husbands and sons” (Black 94). With the application of Ellis’s opinions in The Daughters of England it seems that Dickens may have had a similar opinion on the ultimate role of women within Victorian Society. In Hard Times the characters of Louisa and Sissy, who are two daughters of England, experience very different endings within the novel as a result of their choices post-education. Dickens novel depicts a very sad and lonely life for Louisa who only knows a life of education and facts. On the other hand, Sissy Jupe, the daughter of the circus is described as being happy at the closing of the novel. Dickens, much like Ellis idealizes the role of motherhood gifting the young women in the story who experience it with a happy ending.
Ellis states in her piece that there are three categories of education, “cleverness, learning, and knowledge” (Ellis 50). She defines cleverness as having the ability to apply “perpetual cheerfulness, added to a capability of general usefulness,” it is a skill that can be applied whenever a skill or service requires it (Ellis 51). Ellis defines cleverness as being an appropriate education for women as “it takes nothing away from the charm of feminine delicacy” (Ellis 51). The other two parts of education, learning and knowledge, are not ones that Ellis views appropriate. Education for a woman should come down to learning skills or information that has a practical and daily application for it. If it’s not within a women’s daily activity within the home it has no use.
Dicken’s doesn’t see women as being below education, as young women within the novel are all educated. The education that they receive at the Gradgrinds household and at the local Choakumchild School is far from ideal because it is too much focused on facts. Louisa, who has “been so well trained” that she is unaccustomed to romantic views. Mr. Gradgrind has ensured that Louisa has been educated to view “everything from the strong dispassionate ground of reason and calculation (Dickens 129). The education and training that Louisa receives...