Tuesday, May 08, 2007
The Ladies Finishing School, Online
Surprise! Check out a project that Emma and I are dreaming up....This could otherwise be entitled, What Have Emma and I Gotten ourselves into?
In April, Emma who authors the blog, Charming the Birds from the Trees, posted that she had seen a British TV show called Ladettes to Ladies. In the series, several young women were given the opportunity to attend an old fashioned finishing school, one in which they learned many skills that would help them in life. I also mentioned that The Athenaeum in Columbia, TN offers a summer program for young women that recreates an 1861 girl's finishing school. I've listed the links in case you'd like to check them out. http://charmingthebirdsfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2007/04/ladette-to-lady.html
Many of us who read Emma's blog commented that we would love to learn the skills that were/are taught in a finishing school. Even those of us who received wonderful academic educations thought it would be fun to brush up on the skills that help a lady create a life of loveliness for herself and her loved ones.
Voila! An idea was born. Why not create an online finishing school? Emma and I kicked around some ideas and came up with the following:
If we have enough women who would like to participate, we would like to create a six to eight week finishing school course online. Emma and I have in mind a few women we know who have expertise in certain subjects We would ask each one to devote one week of their blog to that subject. I will serve as a sort of online principal or head mistress. That's just a fancy way of saying that I will be the blogger who coordinates it all.
For example, we might choose someone who would blog about how to live elegantly on a frugal budget. The blogger would post five daily lessons about that topic and may also suggest an exercise or two to for all of us try. During that week, we would all read the posts on "the expert's" blog and leave comments about how we are applying that skill in our week. If any of us would like to add further to the conversation of the week, we could post about that subject on our blogs, as well.
We would select about four or five teachers and six to eight different subjects. In that way, by the end of the period, we will all have been introduced to eight different subjects. Of course, we cannot cover in one week what might be a year's worth of study in a real finishing school. So, any of us who want to can continue to study these subjects on our own.
So, you ask, what is a finishing school, anyway? According to Wikipedia, a finishing school is a type of school for women that emphasizes cultural studies and prepares students especially for social activities. The name reflects that it follows ordinary school and is intended to complete the educational experience. To that, definition, I would would add that most finishing schools teach domestic arts, household management (some even hotel management) and languages. Old-timey finishing schools also used to teach needlework and other crafts.
Schools like these were very popular in the late 1700's through the mid-1900's. Many famous women's colleges, such as Smith, started out as finishing type schools and switched to a more academic/professional focus as our society has changed. Even though finishing schools per se have lost popularity, a few still exist. The ones that are still around are often both expensive and exclusive. They prepare women for roles as members of the upper realms of society. Princess Diana, for example, attended a Swiss finishing school at one point.
Most of us in the blog-o-sphere will never be called upon to enter the most rarefied ranks of society, nor would we want to. And, few of us can afford to attend the finest finishing schools. Besides, many of us are well past the age of attending a real life finishing school.
But, wouldn't it be fun to spend six or eight weeks learning at least a little of what a woman might learn in a finishing school? After all, we can benefit from brushing up on ladylike arts. Wouldn't it be delightful to chat about such topics as personal presentation, hospitality, manners, culture, conversation, cooking special meals and desserts, etc?
We can all have fun with our online finishing school! We can create it to be whatever meets our needs.
The graduate of a finishing school has been educated to be, among other things, a lady. There are many definitions for the word lady. For our purposes, we will choose the ones that have to do with character.
Among the characteristics that Dictionary.com lists for the word lady are a woman who is polite, refined, and well-spoken, a woman regarded as proper and virtuous, ladylike, feminine, mistress of a household, and a woman of good manners. Lest we think fear that a little refinement will make us stuffy, we should remember that a true lady is one who thinks about the welfare of others. She also creates a lovely life for herself, for her loved ones, and for others around her. A true lady is enjoyable to be around.
Notice that "lady" is not a synonym for "Christian woman". A woman may have refined manners and be well-spoken, and yet fail to have a genuine heart for God. On the other hand, a woman can have some rough edges to her, and, yet, she may be devoted to Christ and to the things that Christ cares about. God doesn't judge us according to Emily Post's or Martha Stewart's rules of living.
However, we can all benefit from reminders about how to present ourselves well, how to provide hospitality, etc. We won't be discussing religion directly. But, we can use the skills we talk about in God's service.
Here's an example of what First Lady Sarah Childress Polk and her sister learned at a finishing school:
"To further their education, the Childress’s sent both girls to the best girls school in the south: the Moravian Female Academy in Salem, North Carolina in 1817. Here they studied English, grammar, geography, needlework, history, music, drawing and the Bible."
Sarah used her education to become one of the most gracious and effective First Ladies in our country's history. She was a great help to her husband, President James K. Polk, throughout his legal and political career. Even after she was widowed, she continued to be admired. During the Civil War, generals from both sides visited her and paid her honor. Read her story at this link: http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=12
If you're interested in participating in our little "Finishing School", either to learn new skills or as a refresher, please leave a comment on my blog or on Emma's blog. Emma will be posting her ideas for our little school soon. Also, we would appreciate any suggestions you have about which subjects you would like us to include. Some ideas are:
How to live elegantly on a budget
Embroidery or some other type of lovely handwork project
Sewing an apron or a nightgown
Etiquette, modern and traditional: including cell phone and email etiquette
Teaching children about manners
French culture and elementary French language
How to prepare a simple and relatively inexpensive French meal
Flower Arranging, Centerpieces for tables,
The art of Gift Giving, How to make birthdays and other occasions special
The Lady's appointment book/calendar/household management book
Personal presentation: poise, grooming, posture, skincare, etc.
What to wear on what occasion
How to be an interesting conversationalist; how to help guests enjoy talking to each other, etc.
How to set a table for a casual lunch, a casual dinner, a more formal dinner, a tea, a buffet supper, etc.
How to choose clothing and how to maintain clothing and shoes; the lady's closet, the lady's boudoir
Encouraging our husbands in their work, being a life mate
Keeping up with current events
Selecting a signature flower and perfume; the "language" of flowers, etc.
You can get some other ideas by reading this link: http://www.ivpworld.com/en/default.asp.
We want to include subjects that are fun and subjects that are practical. So, let us know what you think!
P.S. Emma's husband created the lovely button for us! We will use it as our theme.