This seminar is part of the CHSTM Seminar Series Feb-May 2016.
CHSTM seminars will be held fortnightly on Tuesdays at 4pm in Room 2.57 Simon Building, Brunswick Street, Manchester, M13 9PL https://goo.gl/maps/RTFk4 with tea and biscuits from 3.30pm.
All are welcome and please feel free pass this list on to interested colleagues.
‘Begin with the girls’: narratives of science and education in juvenile periodicals, ca. 1860-1910’
Dr Melanie Keene (Homerton College, Cambridge)
The only ‘true philosophy of education’, opined a contributor to a family periodical in 1867, was to ‘begin with the girls’. As future mothers, the ‘empire of childhood’ would be their ‘prerogative’, where young members of both sexes could be inculcated with skills, virtues, and morals, as well as with knowledge. Attention to female education would therefore make the world ‘good as well as wise’. Appearing in a review of John Ruskin’s conversation on crystallography, The Ethics of the Dust (1866), under the title ‘Science for girls’, the article praised the work and its author for their contributions to this endeavour. Academic commentators similarly have focused on conversational books such as Ruskin’s, and their ‘familiar format’ has been seen to typify contemporary instructional texts; however, less attention has been paid to elementary scientific writing which appeared in the juvenile periodical press. Nevertheless, the increasing numbers of specialised and gendered periodicals in the second half of the nineteenth century provided a significant forum for introductory scientific texts and images in nineteenth-century Britain and America. As Diana Dixon has noted, ‘For many young people, especially girls, these articles were their only means to understanding the rudiments of science’. It was also in their pages that more general debates over educational philosophy and content could be found.
In this talk I will analyse some of the scientific articles which appeared in juvenile periodicals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to elucidate how they dealt with ‘science for girls’. In particular, I will reveal how they constructed particular narratives of participation and education for their readers, in line with their expected future roles. If one began with the girls, I will argue, educational narratives could end with better-informed maternal figures, but also with better-informed scientific participants in botanical art, chemical cookery, astronomical poetry, or even in labs of their own.