Women In The Old South

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The Old South did not allow many education opportunities for women of any type at first. Initially, the South saw little need for farm wives, the majority of Southern women, to learn to read and write (McMillen 90). Many education opportunities were informal and women were often taught by other women useful skills and traits. However, female academies slowly began to open which “suggested that the South would not tolerate an unschooled female population” (McMillen 90). Many white and some free black girls were able to take advantage of this. “Christie Farnham’s study, The Education of the Southern Belle, argues that southern female academies in the antebellum period began to offer courses on a par with men’s schools” (McMillen 91). This contradicts…show more content…
This is due to the fact that “for wealthy planter families, educated daughters reflected positively on their social status” (McMillen 91). They often took classes “to enhance their social graces and elite status” (McMillen 91). Classes like this were often music, dance, and embroidery. It was thought that mothers needed an education to fulfill their role properly. They should know how to read and be exposed to the world around them to be good examples to their children and be better companions for their husbands. Women should be educated, but refined and submissive and understand that their education was to help them fulfill their roles as mothers and not to seek a role beyond the home. The education of wealthy white women generally focused on academic learning, good manners, and fine arts to suit their class position. They often attended boarding schools or at least private schools. “A well-known southern magazine DeBow’s Review extolled the numerous benefits of women’s education, ‘The effect has been to improve their minds and manners without robbing them of the extreme delicacy and refinement for which they have always been distinguished.’” (McMillen 94). The purpose of education for wealthy white women was to turn them into “ladies” that had a general education of the world. Southern academies made it a goal to prepare girls to accept a domestic and secondary life. “Education gave girls a mark of gentility and refinement; its intent was not to challenge the region’s dominant ideology and belief that a woman’s proper place was secondary to that of men” (McMillen 100). They needed an education so they could well represent their families and become excellent companions for their future husbands. They were to be obedient, hardworking and eventually
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