Education in the 1850's
NARRATOR: During Kate Chopin's adolescent years, about seventy-five percent of upper class white girls had the opportunity to get a formal education. But, that number dropped to only about 30-percent in the South. Scholars say not only did society put restrictions on education for females�families did as well.
SOUNDBITES: Donald DeVore/Amistad Research Center
Most parents, mothers and fathers, also saw their females in a limited way for professional choices. And many times people just didn't think it was the correct thing to do. Too much education may have made a female unfit for marrying so there were restrictions placed on educational aspirations and opportunities for females by the family, as well as by the larger society.
E.F. Genovese/Emory University
When they were growing up and they were in school, in the 1850s and 1860s there weren't very many opportunities for women to become independent professional intellectuals. A schoolteacher was not normally something that a woman of their class, background would do, especially in the southern states.
NARRATOR: Families who were committed to making sure their daughters were well educated had options. They could have done what Kate Chopin's mother did�send the girls to academies. The private schools were growing in popularity.
SOUNDBITE: Donald DeVore/Amistad Research Center
Generally speaking, and you had to kind of look at each academy, a female academy probably provided a better environment for females than a mixed setting.
NARRATOR: Even when white women were fairly well educated, they were limited in career choices. The conventional thinking throughout the 19th century was that the woman's place was in the home, having children�and caring for her family. For more affluent white households, that included supervising the servants. So, schools focused heavily on teaching girls about cooking, sewing and keeping track of household expenses. Some African Americans may have had an easier time than women getting an education.
SOUNDBITE: Donald DeVore/Amistad Research Center, Tulane
It was illegal for anyone to formally educate slaves. Nonetheless, since slaves participated in many ways in the southern economy, often times masters participated in educational activities just to make slaves more efficient in a variety of tasks.
NARRATOR: During the 1860s its estimated that about five to six percent of African Americans were literate, knowing the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. In general, educational opportunities were much better for boys. Males were encouraged to go to college, since the U.S. was beginning to move more toward industrialization. Back to Kate Chopin, she established many relationships at her private girls' school, Sacred Heart.