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By tradition and circumstance, girls didn't attend school with the same ambition or for as long as boys. Girls didn't need to prepare for a public life since they were typically destined to marry and raise families. Their 'education' in this sphere took place in the home. For more traditional schooling, small private schools near their home were considered a good option for the daughters of an aspiring upper class family; the ideal, when possible, was to be taught privately by a governess at home.

Learning to play the piano was an indispensable achievement for young ladies of middle-class and upper-class households. Singing, dancing, art and languages were studied. Needle crafts, lacemaking, embroidery and crochet were all genteel pursuits that were encouraged.


From Wives and Daughters, Part Two, Chapter XIX

...With regard to dress, however, Cynthia soon showed that she was her mother's own daughter in the manner in which she could use her deft and nimble fingers. She was a capital workwoman; and, unlike Molly, who excelled in plain sewing, but had no notion of dressmaking or millinery, she could repeat the fashions she had only seen in passing along the streets of Boulogne, with one or two pretty rapid movements of her hands, as she turned and twisted the ribbons and gauze her mother furnished her with. So she refurbished Mrs Gibson's wardrobe...



Part Three, Chapter XXVIII

Mrs Gibson was sitting at her embroidery in the drawing-room, and the two girls were at the window, Cynthia laughing at Molly's earnest endeavours to imitate the French accent in which the former had been reading a page of Voltaire....


At the age of sixteen or seventeen, young girls of the upper classes 'came out' to society; until then, they were not encouraged to entertain romantic notions. A young single woman was not encouraged to be in the company of a man without a chaperone, or even to walk alone.

In Wives and Daughters (Part Three, Chapter XXI), Mrs. Gibson is reluctant to let Molly and Cynthia attend a party at the Miss Brownings until they properly come out at the Easter ball:

...the fact was that pretty nearly every one who was going to this ball had seen the two young ladies - though not their ball dresses - before. But, aping the manners of the aristocracy as far as she knew them, she intended to 'bring out' Molly and Cynthia on this occasion, which she regarded in something of the light of a presentation at Court. 'They are not out yet,' was her favourite excuse when either of them was invited to any house to which she did not wish them to go, or invited without her. She even made a difficulty about their 'not being out' when Miss Browning - that old friend of the Gibson family - came in one morning to ask the two girls to come to a very friendly tea and a round game afterwards...

'You are very kind, Miss Browning, but you see I hardly like to let them go - they are not out, you know, till after the Easter ball.'

'Till when we are invisible,' said Cynthia, always ready with her mockery to exaggerate any pretension of her mother's. 'We are so high in rank that our sovereign must give us her sanction before we can play a round game at your house.'


Once 'out' a young woman had only a brief period of time on the social circuit to find a husband. If she was unsuccessful, she was regarded as a forlorn spinster. When speaking of sisters, the term "Miss" with only a surname meant the eldest; thus, one would refer to the elder as "Miss Browning" and the younger as "Miss Phoebe."


From Wives and Daughters, Part One, Chapter I

...Long as his ride had been that day, [Mr. Gibson] called on the Miss Brownings in the evening, to arrange about Molly's accompanying them to the Towers. They were tall handsome women, past their first youth, and inclined to be extremely complaisant to the widowed doctor.

'Eh dear! Mr. Gibson, but we shall he delighted to have her with us. You should never have thought of asking us such a thing,' said Miss Browning the elder.

'I'm sure I'm hardly sleeping at nights for thinking of it,' said Miss Phoebe. 'You know I've never been there before. Sister has many a time; but somehow, though my name has been down on the visitors' list these three years, the countess has never named me in her note...


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