Women and Education

Mrs Emma Jane Simpson

Last week was Eliza miffed with me and all week, says she, she has been saddened that we quarrelled. “Quarrelled?” says I “My darling girl, was you and I to quarrel 'tis sure the very sky should fall from the heavens which, my new glass skylight being safe above us, and, consequently, Master not seeking my guts for his garters, I'm sure we can see did not happen!”

So we fell to talking of the latest news in the Gazette, and how the new King has offered the old king's wife (for such do all here consider her) to be a Duchess, and which ships are now in Plymouth Harbour and which battles are being fought.

But, in truth, I am weary of the world of men: I think it exceeding unfair that the world of reading and of writing be denied so many women. For surely if women were to write of the affairs of the world they would not write merely of battles and wars and money and titles such as all have been discussing this week. Why, tis women who bear the knowledge of the world – and they would write about this knowledge that all might read and learn. They would not keep it locked away from the eyes of fully one half of all folk.

Eliza was puzzled when I asked her to write that last and asked me what did I mean. Which goes to show once again how little her book learning has done for her. It stood to reason, I instructed her, that if each man do take unto himself a wife then, for every man to be counted there is a woman – nay even more than one woman. For so many do die in giving birth. But Eliza did respond that for every one of those dead woman, did one dead soldier die upon some foreign strand. Well then, says I, that still do make it equal numbers.

And while I may not have learned my numbers from some book in a schoolroom, why still I know that if Matthew Goodfellow do bring me 8 brace of partridge and John coachman do slip me the same number of rabbits, and if I were to prepare that 8 brace of partridge for the table, why then I would have prepared but half of all that is to go to table that e'en.

Eliza shakes her head and tells me that it does fairly ache to write of partridges and rabbits, and dead soldiers and women in childbed and besides, it is no longer the done thing to say 'e'en' and that, were I she, I would know the proper, writing-down word is 'evening'. “Hoity-Toity” says I, “And were I you, sure I should know that two halves do make a whole!”

“But I do know that I am a woman AND I can read and write, which makes you out in your arithmetic.” Which did not give me pause, for: “Poor daft Willie who collects the eggs and feeds the chickens is a man and cannot read or write, so he cancels you out!” I cry with perfect logick.

But finally I do snort a little, and Eliza she does giggle and soon we do wheeze and laugh at each other fit to burst as it always was between the two of us.

But mind! Says I, I still wish that all these our words, do enter into my Journal.

For mayhap she will read them again one day when her old Aunt is long gone to her rest, and remember not heathen battles nor the affairs of Kings, but a mug of ale and a good fire and the laughter in her Auntie's kitchen when once the world was young.