Bolton School Senior Girls

Victorian Headmistress Book Now Available Online

A book about Victorian Headmistress Fanny Eliza Johnson is now freely available to view online as a flip-book or to download as a PDF. Fanny Eliza Johnson: A Thoroughly Modern Victorian Headmistress was written by former Girls’ Division teacher Veronica Millington.

From 1888 to 1893, Miss Johnson was the Headmistress at Bolton High School for Girls, which would later become Bolton School Girls' Division.

The creation of the book was prompted by the discovery of Miss Johnson’s logbook in the School Archives. This document contains Miss Johnson’s hand-written notes on the letters and visits from parents of girls attending the school, as well as her own responses to them.

This unique piece of social history offers a glimpse into the minutiae of daily life in a Victorian girls’ school. The logbook provides a fascinating insight into the many differences between the late nineteenth and early twenty-first centuries - but also highlights the numerous and sometimes unexpected similarities! In the foreword, Mrs Linda Frew (Senior Librarian at the time of publication) comments, “so much was familiar: the petty squabbles between pupils, complaints of too much homework, parents taking children on holidays during the school term - not to mention the odd flashes of exasperation and wry humour from the Headmistress.”

As well as painting a vivid portrait of the school between 1888 and 1893, Fanny Eliza Johnson : A Thoroughly Modern Victorian Headmistress also delves into more detail about the history of the Girls’ Division. The book discusses the foundation of the girls’ school, and the various changes it went through before, during and after Miss Johnson’s time as Headmistress, as well as the whole life of Miss Johnson herself.

Mrs Millington spoke about the process behind the book: “The book took me about a year to write. That may sound ridiculously fast but, thanks to the amazing records in the school archives, I really did have a head start. As for Fanny Eliza’s personal story, most of that had to be researched from scratch but the detective in me relished the challenge! And, once I’m on the trail of a story, I don’t mind sticking at it morning, noon and night. So the whole process was thoroughly enjoyable and I was also extremely lucky in that all the people and organisations I approached were very helpful indeed.

Why did I write it? Well, our Senior Librarian, Linda Frew, wanted to ‘do something’ with the school’s archive material. I had just retired and, knowing that I enjoyed that kind of research, she asked me if I would have a go. I didn’t have to think twice about it!”

The current Headmistress of the Girls' Division, Miss Sue Hincks, said, “This book gives a fascinating insight into the life of a very special woman, who made a significant contribution to education in Bolton and beyond. During Miss Johnson's time as Headmistress the Girls' School moved to the Park Road site (and was opened by Millicent Fawcett), a Kindergarten was established (which boys were allowed to attend) and the Past and Present Club (the forerunner of our Old Girls' Society) was founded.”

For anyone with an interest in the history of the Girls’ Division, or indeed education in the Victorian period, this book is sure to be a captivating read.


To view the flip-book or download the free PDF, click here.

To order a physical copy of the book, click here to visit the School’s Online Merchandise Store.

Fanny Eliza Johnson: A Thoroughly Modern Victorian Headmistress
A photograph of Miss Johnson