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Teaching Eleanor Roosevelt Glossary

[picture: Allenswood Academy, 1900]Allenswood Academy, a private school outside London, England, provided wealthy young women a stimulating environment that took the education of women seriously at a time when they were denied access to the elite institutions of higher learning. Headmistress Marie Souvestre emphasized history, geography, literature, and foreign languages, and the importance of direct inquiry and free thinking. Under her leadership, Allenswood created an environment that encouraged young women to think critically about issues and to believe in their own intellectual talents. Souvestre, a "feminist of bold conviction [who] disdained the patriarchal mind," was instrumental in ER's personal development as a student and as a person.(1)

The school did have many rules, three of which ER in particular found absurd. The three were that students were only permitted three baths a week, none longer than ten minutes; they had to confess upon entering the dining hall if they had uttered an English word during the day; and they were subject to the punishment of bed-stripping, having the contents of one's dresser dumped on one's bed. Classes and exercise were mandatory, every hour was required to be accounted for, and dinner was always a formal affair.(2)

In the three years she spent at Allenswood (1899-1902), ER discovered success and a new sense of confidence and pride in herself. Although preferring to stay for a fourth year and begin teaching at Allenswood, ER reluctantly returned home at the request of her grandmother in order to make her debut in New York society. The return home, however, did not include any more education, which led to one of ER's greatest regrets of never getting a college education.
 


Notes

  1. Blanche Wiesen Cook, Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume One 1884-1933 (New York: Viking Press, 1992), 104.
     
  2. Ibid, 108.

Sources:

Beasley, Maurine H., Holly C. Shulman, and Henry R. Beasley, eds. The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001, 488-490.

Cook, Blanche Wiesen. Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume One 1884-1933. New York: Viking Press, 1992, 100-124.