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A fascinating new book is set to reveal what life was like for a
Victorian headmistress running one of the country's first girls'
The book, entitled "Fanny Eliza Johnson: A thoroughly modern
Victorian headmistress", covers the period of her headship,
1888-1893, at Bolton High School for Girls. The school later
went on to become Bolton School Girls' Division and one of its
former teachers and a published author in her own right, Veronica
Millington, has delved into the School's archives and written a
memorable and insightful book.
The book (downloadable order form at the bottom of this
page) provides a vivid portrait of both a school and its
Headmistress at a time of great social change, at once struggling
for survival and pushing the boundaries of women's education.
On one level the book reveals how different things were: the
coal fires, the cook with diphtheria, children dying of infectious
diseases and the pupil who was one of only two surviving children
from a family of ten. Yet other issues are remarkably
familiar: the petty squabbles between pupils, complaints of too
much homework and parents taking children out of school to take
them on holidays.
The reader is also drawn into a wider world of burgeoning
campaigns to secure equal rights for women and of a population
still beset by infant mortality and diseases such as diphtheria and
We were fortunate in that our school archives gave us a great
foundation on which to build and we had a number of documents
relating to the school at that time: Miss Johnson's logbook, the
School Council (Governors') minutes, all the school accounts,
inspection reports, the schemes of work, Form Tutors' comments on
the pupils in their class, the first school magazine and a full set
of one girl's reports for that period. However, I had to
buckle down to some serious detective work to find out more about
Miss Johnson herself as personal details about her were virtually
non-existent. It was exhilarating to slowly piece together
someone's personality and, ultimately, I found her to be
warm-hearted, a bit of a free-thinker and radical for her age - you
might say a thoroughly modern headmistress!
The book will be officially launched on 25 September and a
launch party will take place in the Girls' Division library at
Bolton School. In the first instance 400 copies will be
printed and the book will retail at a price of £6.99. Copies
can be ordered from Mrs L Frew, Senior Librarian on t: 01204 840201
or at email@example.com
Order your copy and
send to Mrs Frew.