Willingly to School: A History of Women’s Education

By Mary Cathcart Borer

An overview of the provision, or lack thereof, for girls’ education from before the Norman Conquest to the twentieth century.

ISBN: 9780718896508


The denial of equal educational opportunities to women is arguably one of the great injustices in British history. In Willingly to School, Mary Cathcart Borer charts the gradual reversal of this inequality, and the revolutionary effect it has had on social structures, from the Anglo-Saxons to the twentieth century.  Always mindful of the historical context of each period, Borer explores the significant early role of the church, the opportunities afforded to royal and noble girls, the origins of the various forms of privately and charitably funded school, and the emergence of the modern school system. Along the way, particular significant institutions and individuals such as Christ’s Hospital, Cheltenham Ladies College, the Brontë sisters and Fanny Burney are examined in depth.

Writing in 1975, Borer described the mid-twentieth century as having ‘seen the culmination of women’s demands for full equality in society’. While the intervening years have shown that there is still much work to be done in the pursuit of equality, Borer’s analysis of the progress that has been made in women’s education remains as pertinent as ever.

Additional information

Dimensions 216 × 138 mm
Pages 330

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Trade Information LGENPOD

About the Author

Mary Cathcart Borer (1906-94) was a prolific novelist, playwright and non-fiction author. She worked as a museum curator and archaeologist early on in life, but rose to prominence as a screenwriter for children’s films and television plays in the 1940s and 1950s. After this she focussed on non-fiction writing, covering subjects from King Alfred the Great to the Boer War alongside historical studies of various London boroughs. She wrote numerous books on British social history, including The British Hotel Through the Ages.


1. Introduction
2. Before the Norman Conquest
3. Medieval England
4. Tudor England
5. The Early Stuarts and the Commonwealth
6. The Restoration
7. More Advice to the Girls
8. The Charity Schools
9. The Decline of the Charity School Movement
10. Precept and Practice
11. More Eighteenth-Century Boarding Schools
12. Women Learned and Romantic
13. Into the Nineteenth Century
14. The Nineteenth Century
15. Miss Buss and Miss Beale
16. Education for All
17. And Now?

Books Consulted