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
Interior Decorating
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
Art Appreciation
Music Appreciation
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.


Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog recently and so am pretty new to you. I did find the idea of an online ladies' finishing school to be attractive! I would do it if given the chance (assuming a cooperative schedule).

I liked the subjects you listed. The ones that stood out the most were the email/cell phone etiquette, the art of gift giving, how to be an interesting conversationalist (a real challenge for me!) and what to wear on what occasion. Though I think any of the ones you listed would be valuable.

Thank you!


Jen said...

Oooh, I love this idea! Count me in. :)

Linda said...

GREAT idea (many of us could use such a thing!)

I'm not sure about all the 'french influences' though.. I always found the french, including the women, the most blunt and un-ladylike....

(I know that americans use the 'fictional' french, in movies.. elegant, etc.. but in reality french women are often characterised as heavy drinkers, smokers and VERY feministic....) ;)

greetings from the netherlands

Linda said...

I am new to reading your blog.
I think the finishing schoolis a great idea. I would be interested in being a student as I don't possess the skills to be a teacher. I will look forward to hearing more details on this.

Anonymous said...

Ohhhh that's such a fantastic idea! I'd definitely like to join in!

Lady of the house said...

What a fun idea! I always wished there had been some sort of "finishing" curriculum to round out my university studies. I studied history and tended to focus on women and domestics in the past, so I always thought of that as a finishing of sorts. Looking forward to hearing more about this.

Mrs.Garcia said...

Elizabeth, I would love to join in as a Student to gleam all the wealthful of helpful information I can learn so I can also pass this on to our Daughter.

Terri said...

This is such a wonderful idea, Elizabeth! I left a comment on Emma's blog but I would like to leave a comment here, too. Any of those topics listed would be beneficial! Please count me in as a student.

Doug and Terrye said...

I have so much to learn, I would love to "attend" your school.

Terrye in FL

Anonymous said...

I am new to your blog as well as Emma's. As I said on her site, I would love to be a part of this !!!


Anonymous said...

What a great idea!

Mimi said...

Hi All,

Thanks for the enthusiastic response from everyone!

A couple of people are rightly concerned about the humanistic and worldly influence of French culture. I studied French literature for eight years and spent a little time in France. I understand that the romanticized picture that Americans have of French culture doesn't always line up with reality. After all, France might be considered a birth place of modern agnosticism, something that neither Emma nor I would ever want to promote!

However, in American finishing schools, it used to be considered important for a lady to learn French language and culture. This is because, for all its many faults, France did leave its mark on the English language, on diplomacy, on the arts, on interior decorating, and on cuisine. Many of our American phrases related to manners, cooking, clothing, etc., are derived from the French language and culture. Some of our American decorating styles and architecture are blends of American/French culture, as well. So, if we do do anything regarding French culture, we'll be sure to focus only on the positive aspects.

But, again, this is our school, so we don't have to include anything about French culture and language if we don't want to.


Anonymous said...

Great idea! I'd love to participate!


Anonymous said...

How fun!

When we watched Tennessee Crossroad's segment on the Atheneum last year, I told my husband to start saving now. I would love for our daughter to have such a fun experience!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I so love this idea. I've been looking for a place to learn just this type of thing. I'm so excited!


Anonymous said...

I would love to participate in the finishing school! One area that I would like to learn more about is hospitality and being a good hostess.

God bless,


JacquiG said...

I, too, love this idea. How wonderful that you and Emma are willing to co-ordinate such a thing! You've listed some very interesting topics and I would very much like to be a student in your finishing school!

Shannon said...

Ooo, I would love this! My grandmother and I had a running joke when I was younger that she intended to send me to Swiss finishing school. Now I love the idea:)

Anonymous said...

What a sweet idea. I'll be reading along, I don't have any expertise to offer though.

On the subject of the French, as a regular visitor to France as a child I found that the women were just like the women of any other country, some were elegant, some were inelegant. I do disagree though that the French women are all heavy drinkers (i.e. Linda's comment) - wine is very popular in France (obviously) but I don't think that French women drink a massive amount, they like a drink with a meal I think but don't get rolling drunk regularly.

Anyway just thought that Linda's characterisation of the French women was a tad extreme.

I think that with the French revolution a lot of the love of 'finery' went out of the window. But I do agree that whilst not all French women are the traditional Parisian elegant woman they do have some wonderful fashion houses and a great sense of style. Who can forget that Chanel is French?

Anonymous said...

I would be interested.

Sandra said...

Hi Elizabeth, I think this is a great idea and would love to be a student, too.

I cant' wait to get started!


Anonymous said...

Oh this sounds delightful. I would love to join in. Thank you! Gill.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a wonderful idea. I would love to participate.
Thank you for will to go to the effort and work to make this a possibility.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for the error in my typing.

I meant to say: "Thank you for being willing to go to the effort and work to make this a possibility."

Please forgive my error

Paula said...

Count me in too please. I am new to reading your blog. One question (that was not answered in the FAQ) was if there was a separate blog link for where to get more info/direct new ladies to? I know sometimes bloggers create a separate blog for just such a thing and was not sure if your blog was the main blog or if there was another blog specifically for the the finishing school. Thank you.

Heather said...

This sounds like fun and I would love to participate!

Hannah said...

This sounds like a wonderful idea! You can sure count me in! :D

Birdsong Designs said...

That's a great idea-- I'd like to participate too!

renee9558 said...

I would love to participate.

Anonymous said...

a million words of wonderful pop into my head! Clever idea. I would enjoy being part of such a school.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of a finishing school. Please let me know when this is up and running.


jpennylynne said...


I just finished reading the main website material and resulting 31 comments.

I love the idea and am very interested in participating.

Check out www.switzerland.finishing.school.com for further ideas.

The Swiss have the best in the world.

A lot of time has passed since May so what is the status of the sessions beginning.

I am brand new to blogging so I may not understand how this works.

Mimi said...

Hi JPennyLane:

I'm so happy that you found us. I will check out the link you suggested. We did use one Swiss Finishing School as part of our inspiration, but I'd like to see what your link has to say as well.

We've actually been doing our Finishing School Project all summer and have a few weeks left to go. But, it's not too late for you to participate. I am setting up a separate blogger post where I will put all of the Finishing School posts from all of the various bloggers who have "taught classes" in our school. If you look through my blog for posts with the "Pinkie" Finishing School button, you should find enough information to help you get started. Later on, when I have the blogger page started, you can just go there and find all of the information.

Emma was the first teacher to get us started. You can find her blog
Look on her sidebar for posts that say Finishing School and "personal presentation". Those were our very first posts. If you start reading there, you can work your way through the whole course.

At Emma's blog, you will also see a reference to Eva's blog. Eva is from Belgium originally, and she is posting about the best things we can learn from European culture. So, you might like to read her posts, too, and then go back and pick up any posts you've missed.

If you have any questions, just leave a comment on one of my posts, and I'll be happy to answer it for you.


Unknown said...

I really like this idea. I have wanted to attend a finishing school for several years, but cannot find one close, and I cannot afford to go away for an entire year.
I am very new to this blog, but would like to become familiar with it. I found all of the topics listed to sound quite interesting. I simply wish to have more knowledge in each of those areas. I believe each of the categories to be valuable and worth learning.


mr_caroline said...

I attended finishing school last summer and had a fantastic time. I believe it would be greatly beneficial to me to continue to hone my skills by way of your programme.
Please do let me know when you have this project up and running.

Anonymous said...

Australia doesn't have a single traditional finishing school. I'm way too old for it anyway. But have always secretly wanted to excell at being "a lady".
Hope you do it .


Anonymous said...

Ooh Lala! what a pleasent surprise! i terribely need this course. Please start it right away.

Anonymous said...

Thank you I have been looking for something like this for a long time.

Anonymous said...

i would love to join a finishing school. please contact me as to when it will open for admission. gmiimpressive@aol.com

Nissi said...

I just found you, and I'm very interested. Do you have any idea when this would begin?

Amy Williamson said...

Found you and am very interested!! Please let me know when I can start!

rebecca said...

I love the ideas you have! We ladies can always use more refining and manners. These never go out of style. Actually, I think that etiquette and the social graces are needed alsmost more than ever before. Thank you for making this available on-line where All can benefit. Count me in!

Mimi said...

Hello to Rebecca and to any other recent commenters. Thank you for your kind words. This was a project that we did several summers ago. I have some of the material archived here.

Please visit my new finishing school blog for more updated material, as well.


St@yath0m3m0m said...

I think this is an amazing idea! I would absolutely love to join in !!!

Anonymous said...

I have always felt finishing school (aside from my step-mother's idea of an "at home finishing school") would be beneficial. After watching "Mona Lisa Smile," I became even more intrigued.

Your site is of great interest to me. I cannot imagine schedule will be an issue as this -- if I am reading correctly -- will consist mostly of blogs with perhaps the occasional video?

Thank you for your original idea! I hope to see more from you in the months ahead!

Ann M.

Robin said...

I love this idea!

Elizabeth K. said...

I'm definitely in!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Yes! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I am in!!!! When does it start?

Unknown said...

Hi everyone
I am a qualified finishing school teacher from South Africa and would love to give lessons online via skype
I teach the following: all based on the Traditional Swiss Finishing School concept
Classes are 60 mins long and there are 18 subjects - you can choose individual subjects or the whole course
One subject $10
Whole course $150 can be paid via PAYPAL
Modelling and Deportment
Art of Conversation
Public Speaking
Interior Design
Home Maintenance
Money Matters
Organisational Skills
Time Management
Personal Care and Hygiene
Career choices and interview skills
Nutrition and Exercise
Goal Setting
First Aid and Self Defence
Wardrobe styling
The classes work as follows:
We have a interactive class and then after the subject I send you a presentation with slides and various other material youtube videos and pdf material on the subject
Suitable for young girls and ladies aged 8 - 80
Looking forward to anyone who wants to schedule some classes
Kind regards

Unknown said...

I am also happy to do as a correspondence course via email with tests at the end - either way via skype or correspondence you will receive a certificate of achievement

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lovely idea. Please do, I look forward to what is to come.

Unknown said...

I would love to join your finishing school

Unknown said...

Hello I would love to join your finishing school