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Governess : the lives and times of the real Jane Eyres
Ruth Brandon
Adult Nonfiction LC41 .B73 2008

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Avatar for KaliO KaliO said:
In the 18th and19th centuries, a woman was a spinster if she wasn’t married by her mid-twenties. If she lacked funds of her own as well as a husband, almost her only recourse to support herself—particularly if she was a gentlewoman of the upper classes—was to become a governess. As a governess, a woman lived in someone else’s home. She was responsible for the education of the family’s daughters and young sons. Neither family nor servant, she occupied an uneasy middle ground. In author Ruth Brandon’s study of the institution of the governess during the Victorian age, the lives of some of the more famous governesses are investigated. The Brontë sisters drew on their experiences for their vivid depictions of the profession in Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey. Anna Leonowens’ memoirs were the inspiration for The King and I. Mary Wollstonecraft so despised her time as a governess (even though she had to quite good in comparison to many) that she later became a journalist and promoted the then-radical idea of education and equality for women. The lives that Brandon examines did not all face the neglect and mistreatment that many fictional governesses have to deal with, nor did most of them fall in love with their masters, run mad, or face compelling mysteries and secrets. But no one, it seems, ever loved being a governess. Readers will come away educated, entertained, and thanking their lucky stars that the profession is a thing of the past—but very grateful that fictional governesses abound to teach us all a thing or two.
posted Jul 6, 2010 at 10:01AM
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