Self-help: Advice for girls, 1908

‘Your website is very out of date,’ said a friend disapprovingly about a month ago, and I cringed, well aware of my failings on the blogging front.

Edwardian girl with bikeMy explanation, if not an excuse, is that I have been on a horrendous deadline to research and write a 60,000 word history of a London school in two short months, a week of which I lost to flu, and another when my father was in hospital.  But somehow I have got there and it is almost done.  I’m just at the tidying up stage and can send the draft off in the next couple of days before I go on holiday.


So I have been preoccupied with a rather later period of history than I’m used to.  Francis Holland School was founded in 1878, originally in Baker Street and now close to Regent’s Park, and I have been reading through all the school magazines since then. I love the way primary sources like these give such a feel for the period.  I particularly enjoyed these notes taken from a lecture called ‘Self-help”, given by a Mrs Wordsworth in March 1908.  Not bad advice, really, although I am so glad we don’t have to darn stockings any longer, jewels to the leg or not!  But I will try harder to accept reproof as if it were a present.


Every girl should always carry a pocket-handkerchief about with her, and it should not be used when soiled, or for more than one day. A little scent does no harm and is quite good when used in moderation.

Punctuality is the root of everything that is good. When a girl is called in the morning she should think first of the work to be got through during the day, and then should get up directly. Much time is lost by lying in bed in the morning, and lost time can never be made up.

Many people eat too much, and especially food which is not plain; the plainer the food, the better it is; it is a very bad habit to eat sweets.

There are many bad habits at table, such as leaving food on one’s plate, sitting badly, breaking up one’s bread into small pieces, and drumming one’s feet under the table. People should not indulge in fidgety habits or in absent-mindedness.

Girls should accept reproof as they would accept a present, and at such a time should not shrug their shoulders, make grimaces or bite their lips. No self-respecting girl should have soiled hands or bitten nails.

As regards dress there should be extreme neatness, and a careful combination of colours. Holes should never be seen in one’s stockings; every darn in a stocking is a jewel to one’s leg. All garments should be changed after one has got hot or taken violent exercise.

Gentleness is a great sign of a well-bred and educated woman. A woman is queen in her house, and her children and servants are her subjects, and so she ought to set them a perfect example in every way. She should never be put out, and everything ought to be done with a certain amount of ceremony.

Girls should not use slang, and should try whilst they are still young to form good habits and cure themselves of bad ones.

2 Responses

  1. Tess says:

    Love it! It’s interesting how many of them still apply, if not so extremely. I really enjoyed that, thanks.

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