The Lass o' Pairts
: Social mobility for women through education in Scotland, 1850-1901.

  • Alison Taylor McCall

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis examines education and opportunity for girls and young women in mid to late Victorian Scotland. The study involves analysis of girls’ educational opportunities, and an examination of the career and life options available to those who had successfully accessed education to discover whether there was a so-called ‘lass o’ pairts’ - a woman who was able, regardless of her social background, to achieve upward social mobility through educational opportunity and career advancement.

    This aim was achieved by examining the lives of women at various stages, through school, pupil teacherships, training college, and teaching. Teaching offered women a structured profession, with recognised qualifications and the possibility of promotion. During the period 1850-1901, tens of thousands of young Scottish women sat the Entrance examination to Teacher Training College. To get a representative cross-section of Scottish society, five diverse areas were chosen; Kildonan, Loth and Clyne in east Sutherland, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Govan. Sources such as examination results lists and school board minutes were cross-referenced with census returns to identify the social origins of the girls and women. This confirmed previous research that teachers were drawn largely from the skilled working classes and lower middle classes. Careers were tracked through School Board records of appointments and promotions, whilst social mobility was simultaneously tracked through census returns. Other primary sources used included newspapers, student newspapers and the Educational News, the journal of the E.I.S.

    Within Scotland, the existence of a separate education for Roman Catholics enabled comparison with the state system and conclusions regarding the two parallel systems to be drawn.

    The thesis concludes that girls and women could and did access education and careers, which conferred upward social mobility, well-paid jobs and social status.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorCallum Brown (Supervisor) & Perry Willson (Supervisor)

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