Tag Archives: Cambridge University

The Ladies’ University (As it Should Be): 1875

THE LADIES’ UNIVERSITY.

(AS IT SHOULD BE.)

SceneThe Examination Room of the University.

Professor Punch seated at table, writing. Enter Candidate for Matriculation.

Professor. My dear young Lady, pray take a chair. First let me saу that I am glad to see you have adopted a very proper costume in which to present yourself before the Authorities. A plain stuff gown, a neat cap, and a brown Holland apron. Nothing could be better.

Candidate (seating herself). I am delighted to have gained your approbation, Professor. My choice was regulated by the reflection that I intend to work and not to play.

Professor. Well said! And now, are you desirous of becoming a Member of this University?

Candidate. I am. I covet the honour.

Professor. It is necessary to ask you a few questions. What do you consider to be the “Rights of Woman”?

Candidate. She has but one right, which involves many duties— the right to be the Sweetness and Light, the Grace and Queen of home.

Professor. Very good. You would not wish to sit in Parliament?

Candidate. When my household duties were over, I should not object to an occasional seat in the Ladies’ Gallery—that is, supposing my husband were a Member of the House fond of addressing the Speaker.

Professor. A very proper reply. You do not wish to be a doctor or a lawyer?

Candidate (laughing). Certainly not. My ambition would be quite satisfied were I a good nurse and an efficient accountant.

Professor. An efficient accountant?

Candidate. Yes—that I might be able to check the butcher’s book.

Professor. Very good, indeed! Now do you know the chief object of this University?

Candidate. I believe so. It is to elevate the art of Cooking into a Christian duty. As Mr. Buckmaster said the other day at York,

“Our health, morality, social life, and powers of endurance depend very much on our food, and if it be a Christian duty to cultivate the earth, and make it bring forth food both for man and beast, it is equally a Christian duty to make that food enjoyable and wholesome by good cooking.”

Professor. You are quite right. I too will quote from Mr. Buckmaster’s very excellent speech. He said—

“So long as people prefer dirt to cleanliness and drink to food, and who know nothing, and don’t care to know anything, of those processes and conditions or laws which God has ordered as the condition of health, and without health there can be no happiness, so long as this ignorance and the prejudices which flow from it exist, all efforts except teaching will be comparatively useless. No law can prevent people from eating improper and unwholesome food, or accumulating heaps of filth in the dark corners of rooms, or compel them to open their windows or wash their bodies. Nothing but knowledge or a better education in common things will ever bring about these desirable results. It is for these and many other reasons that I am most anxious about the education of girls. The future of this country depends on their education. Every girls’ school should have a kitchen, with such appliances as they would be likely to have in their own homes, and every young lady should bе able to prepare, from first to last, a nice little dinner.”

Do you agree with Mr. Buckmaster?

Candidate. Most cordially. I think Mr. Buckmaster deserves the thanks of every man, woman, and child in the United Kingdom.

Professor. And so do I. What classes do you wish to join?

Candidate. The Cooking Class, the Dress and Bonnet Class, the Furniture-Judging Class, and the Domestic Economy Class. After I have passed through these, I should very much like to finish my University career by undergoing a final course of Music, Painting, and Modern Languages.

Professor (signing certificate). I have much pleasure in informing you that you are now a Member of the Ladies’ University. You have passed your preliminary examination most creditably.

Candidate. A thousand thanks, Professor.

[Rises, curtsies, and exit to join the Cookery Class.]

Professor. A sensible girl that!

[As the Scene closes in, Professor Punch smilingly returns to his work.]

Punch 20 March 1875: p. 123

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  As Mrs Daffodil’s readers will ascertain from the citation, this is cutting satire for 1875, when university education for women had scarcely begun to be bruited in public discussion and when Mr Patmore’s poem, “The Angel in the House,” was the pattern for feminine behavior. To be Relentlessly Informative, Mr J.C. Buckmaster, a chemist and  associate of a number of scientific societies and the Royal Polytechnic Institute, was the author of Buckmaster’s Cookery, Buckmaster’s Domestic Economy and Cooking. He lectured on cookery at the Great Exhibition.

Punch seemed fond of using culinary references in their barbs directed at women’s education. In 1894, under the heading “The Girton Girl, B.A.” it was announced that a female student at Girton, Miss E.H. Cooke, was on the list of Wranglers for Cambridge University. (This means that she placed in the first class in the very difficult Mathematics Tripos, even though, at this time, women were still not yet allowed to officially take the Tripos.) Punch commented:

Bravissima Miss E.H. Cooke. No difficulty in securing a first rate-place for so excellent a chef. Of course, so admirable a Cooke will at once receive the cordon bleu!

Punch 23 June 1894: p. 297

Really, it is enough to make one slip a little undetectable poison into that “nice little dinner.”

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.