Nineteenth Century Education in Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte was born in Yorkshire in 1816. She spent most of her
life in Haworth, a bleak Yorkshire village where her father was
curate. In 1821 her mother died, so she, her four sisters, Elizabeth,
Anne, Maria and Emily and her brother Branwell were sent to live with
their Aunt, Elizabeth Branwell.
In 1824 Charlotte was sent with Elizabeth, Maria and Emily to a school
for daughters of the clergy. While at school two of her sisters died
of typhus, this is where she got her inspiration for Lowood. After
Charlotte left this school she went to Miss Woolers School and
returned home as a teacher. She also became a governess, as this was a
respectable profession for someone of Charlotte’s status.
The novel Jane Eyre is autobiographical in that Charlotte Bronte
describes her own education through the character Jane Eyre. Many of
the incidents at Lowood really happened to her.
At the beginning of the 19th century only 1 child in 20 went to school
in 1800, and these were mainly boys, the sons of rich parents. Poor
children were too busy to go to school as they worked on the land and
in the factories to bring money for their families. Some factories
provided some education for their workers but very little. If there
was a Sunday school in the village many children attended if they
could, but they were only taught to read the bible, not how to write,
as many of the teachers could not. There were schools that were
privately run by the church, but they were not free, this is like the
school Charlotte was sent to. The Monitorial system was common. Harsh
discipline was used. There was no compulsory schooling until 1880.
In 1833 the government gave money to education for the first time, but
most children were unable to go due to their work. In 1870 a place was
provided for every child in school, but school was still not
compulsory. In 1880 the Mundella Act was passed, making it law that
every child had to go to school. In 1891 education was made free for
In the novel ‘Jane Eyre’ there are three types of education described.
They are Lowood, the governess system and a Village School. These are
all based on Charlottes personal recolections.
Jane Eyre was sent to Lowood at the age of 10. The Lowood timetable
was very strict; the girls were controlled by the use of bells. There
were 80 girls in total; they all wore the strict uniform, ‘brown stuff
frocks and long holland pinafores.’ The girls ranged from the age of
9-20. There were monitors that were like the prefects in that they
collected the lesson books and gave out the supper trays and they did
other general tasks. Lowood was a very religious school and prayers
were very important to them, they were said in the morning for an
hour, in the evening before dinner. School dinners...