The Governesses Mini-Project

In deciding what occupation to choose for the 2018 (20th Anniversary year) project we wanted something from which we could produce worthwhile research and to publish the outcomes in a FACHRS booklet. Thinking back over the previous mini projects, the 2013 School Mistresses came to mind. This was a very popular topic with a lot of very interesting research produced. What about Governesses – could we combine the two sets of research to compare the lives of women labelled School Mistresses or Governesses? The FACHRS Committee approved the idea and the 2018 Mini Project became Governesses but with an added twist!

The first stage of the Mini Project was to research the Governess allocated and then if members wanted to, they could move to Stage 2. Stage 2 was to compare her life with that of a School Mistress. For those who took part in the 2013 School Mistress project that was a comparison with the life of the School Mistress they researched for that project.

For Stage 1 there are a total of 63 completed narratives or Information Sheets in the Governess mini project section on the website.

For Stage 2 there are 12 completed comparisons between a Governess and a School Mistress.

The Governess mini project produced several tangents:

Martin Allen wrote up a short history of each of the 12 Governesses he found in the 1881 Census in Tavistock, Devon for the Newsletter. (Vol 20 No 2 – June 2019) The project launched many members into researching the private schools where the governesses had taught. The 2019 Paul Newton Taylor Award was won by Gill Clark for her Newsletter article on ‘Elizabeth Farley – Governess’. (Vol 19 no 3 – October 2019) In this article Gill writes not only about Elizabeth and her family but also in depth about the private school in Reading where Elizabeth worked as the English Governess.

It is hoped that the project report analysing the lives of the Governesses will be produced this year.

The Governess booklet is a work in progress, and it hoped that it will be completed and published by 2022.

Brita Wood
Gardeners Mini Project Co-ordinator
February 2021