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Pioneering Women’s Education (Hardback)

Dorothea Beale, An Unlikely Reformer

P&S History Social History Women of History Biographies 19th Century

By Sally Waller
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 216
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399012294
Published: 30th August 2022


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Although much less well known than some other nineteenth century female campaigners, such as Florence Nightingale or Emmeline Pankhurst, Dorothea Beale is nonetheless deserving of wide recognition for her pioneering, and at times radical, ideas. Dorothea's work for the education of girls made just as significant an impact on the liberation of women as did that of Florence Nightingale in ennobling the nursing profession or Emmeline Pankhurst in drawing attention to women's political inferiority. Although very much a woman of her times, through her work as Principal of the Cheltenham Ladies' College, her writings, her speeches and her widespread involvement in societies promoting women's interests, Dorothea helped to show what women were capable of, providing them with greater confidence and self-belief.

Drawing on a wide range of original sources, this book traces Dorothea's life and work. It considers the formative influences of her youth, her response to the disappointments of her early career and examines how her own educational ideas evolved, were put into practice and came to influence schools and colleges both at home and abroad. As well as an in-depth analysis of her pioneering work in Cheltenham, her many other interests, connections and involvements, including her contribution to the suffrage campaign are also explored. However this book is not just a story of one woman's achievements, great though they were. There is an attempt to understand Dorothea as a person with reflections on her character and personal life throughout and the book ends with an appraisal of the many contradictions to be found in this intriguing 'conservative reformer'.

Dorothea Beale was a woman whose quiet and unassuming manner hid a strong sense of vocation, a fierce determination and an undoubted practical ability to achieve her ends. Dorothea would have been amazed at the changes that occurred in the position of women in the century after her death in 1906, and yet it was in no small measure thanks to her work that this breakthrough in female opportunities occurred.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Pioneering Women’s Education by Sally Waller expertly told the story of how one woman energized women’s education not only in England, but in many other countries. The chapters in this book provide an increased appreciation of the availability of education to women today. I have a feeling, if Dorothea were still alive, she would fight for educational reform for women on a global scale.

NetGalley, Deborah Pendleton

About Sally Waller

SALLY WALLER read Modern History at Oxford University and has subsequently devoted her life to education, through teaching, examining and writing. She has produced many history textbooks for a range of publishers in the course of her career and, most recently, has been the editor and part-author of a popular Advanced Level History series for Oxford University Press. She has also contributed articles to educational journals and has pursued a number of independent research projects. Her recent retirement after many happy years as a History teacher at the Cheltenham Ladies’ College has given her the opportunity to combine her historical and educational interests through this study of that College’s pioneering Principal.

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300 years ago, in April 1721, a smallpox epidemic was raging in England. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu knew that she could save her 3-year-old daughter using the process of inoculation. She had witnessed this at first hand in Turkey, while she was living there as the wife of the British ambassador. She also knew that by inoculating - making her daughter the first person protected in the West - she would face opposition from doctors, politicians and clerics. Her courageous action eventually led to the eradication of smallpox and the prevention of millions of deaths. But Mary was more than a scientific…

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