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Josephine Bachellery

Josephine Bachellery In 1848 Josephine Bachellery, a Parisian school teacher and head mistress of a boarding school, was one of many w omen to speak out for women's emancipation, confident that "women would have their share in the splendid legislative feast" being prepared for the regenerated nation. She published general articles on this subject in Eugenie Niboyet's Saint Simonian journal La Voix des Femmes, but devoted herself mainly to proposing reforms in women's education. In a volume of collected letters on education published in 1848 she stated in her introduction that "nothing important for women has resulted since the February revolution aside from courses being opened for them at the Collège de France." Despite the republic's claim that women are to be the agents of a new morality "they have been ignored in all the projects, half of humanity --the feminine nation-- still has medieval social concepts!" For women to participate in the task of creating a new society they needed an appropriate education. The volume concluded, therefore, with a blueprint for state-supported girls secondary schools and an "Ecole Normale Supérieure" to form the teachers of this institution. Although her tone was not revolutionary, the changes she advocated were radical, given the lack of any formal provisions for girls schooling in France. An ordonnance in 1836 had encouraged but not required the creation of girls primary schools; religious teaching orders dominated the relatively few secondary schools. Beginning in 1838 Josephine Bachellery protested in educational journals against the general lack of interest in developing girls schooling.

Jacotot's influence is obvious in her writing, but she devoted more attention to calling for women's intellectual emancipation than to pedagogical methods. In particular, she argued that women's education can no longer be perceived solely through the prism of private life. Social changes required all classes of women to receive serious professional education. In her opinion, four principal avenues were open to women: religious life, teaching, the artistic professions and industry. Not surprisingly, she considered teaching to be the highest vocation, whereas religious life was castigated as "the egoism of celibacy". The attention given to her views was reflected in the fact that David Lvi Alvarz, the founder of classes in maternal education, asked her in 1845 to comment on the newly appointed "inspectors"(inspectrices) of boarding schools in Paris. She took this opportunity to criticize the separate sexual standards which left girls education in the hands of religious orders while the authorities drove Jesuits from boys education. Secondly, she argued that the exams required for lay women teachers were useless without the existence of a normal school to train them beyond the acquisition of purely mechanical skills. (Normal schools for women first appeared in France in 1838 but they remained isolated and private initiatives until 1879.) Her letter concluded then by calling for a woman's university to direct lay girls' education. Her strongly voiced opposition to clerical education and her devastating portrayal of the frivolity of most lay education did not meet with wholehearted approval. Even those journals supportive of women's education, such the Revue de l'Enseignement des Femmes protested against her lack of moderation.

Bachellery seized on the appointment of Carnot as minister of public instruction in 1848 to present her most cherished reform. In a letter entitled "General Considerations on the Organization of Public Education for Women" she began by quoting Madame de Rémusat: "The movement of political reforms is that of educational plans". Since women were to be the link between the classes, the vital element in the achievement of fraternity, they needed education to make them "intelligent collaborators in community works". She eschewed any call for political equality and couched her requests for educational reforms in socio- economic terms. Because the future was so uncertain, poor and rich girls alike needed an education which would train them for a profession. This could only be achieved through the creation of a girls' "collège" and a superior normal school; from the latter would emerge the model woman of the modern democratic world -- an individual that "all women will be happy and proud to resemble". The students thus trained would then teach in the new female "collèges" or "lycées" which were open to girls of all social classes thanks to fellowships. From these schools would emerge qualified women to teach, to manage agricultural enterprises, to go into commerce and accounting or industrial professions.

While Carnot probably agreed with Bachellery's assessment of girls education, he was not in power sufficiently long time to institute any of her proposed reforms. Indeed, the Falloux educational law in 1850 consecrated the hold of religious teaching orders in girls education, and the superior normal school which she called for only appeared in 1880 at the same time that girls secondary education was finally taken under state control. Nonetheless, Bachellery's quest for equal educational opportunity represented a significant theme in feminist demands in 1848 and influenced future struggles.
Rebecca Rogers


Josephine Bachellery. Lettres sur l'éducation des femmes. Paris: Lemoine et Mansut, 1848.

Josephine Bachellery "Comment nous comprenons l'émancipation des femmes." La Voix des Femmes, April 19 and 24/25, 1848.

Josephine Bachellery "Discours prononcé le jour de distribution des prix le 25 août 1842 en son institution". Paris, n.d.

Josephine Bachellery "Discours prononcé le jour de distribution des prix le 21 août 1843 en son institution". Paris, n.d.

Josephine Bachellery "Discours prononcé le jour de distribution des prix le 10 août 1851 en son institution". Paris, 1851.

Françoise Mayeur Histoire générale de l'enseignement et de l'éducation en France. III "De la Révolution à l'école républicaine (1789-1930)" Paris: Nouvelle Librairie de France, 1981.

Françoise Mayeur L'éducation des filles en France au XIXe siècle. Paris: Hachette, 1979.

Revue de l'Enseignement des Femmes, February 1845, 26-28.

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