During her former years, Miss Wilson’s schooling life went through various degrees of change. Her education began at St Phillips Methodist School, a quaint, church orientated primary “only a few yards down Burnley street” from her Aunts’ family home. The Schools motto was taken from Corinthians 16:4, “Let all that you do, be done in love” and there were few things Miss Wilson loved doing in her early years more than sleeping. Despite the fact they lived only a few yards away from the school entrance, Miss Wilson struggled with punctuality, or more accurately getting up out of bed. She readily admitted being “spoilt” in certain ways, “never being early” a common one.
She began this trend from her first day, being so fast asleep her aunty didn’t want to stir her. Later that afternoon her aunt took her on the short trip down the road to meet her new classmates. She denotes feeling “really ashamed of this because everyone else had been given their places, crayons or slates” but made sure to always attend from the next morning onwards- but still never early! Although it wasn’t the best beginnings, it seems as a perfect embodiment to a core character trait prevalent in Miss Wilson. She builds on negative experiences to fortify herself. She would never be late again.
Due to her father’s success in charge of a local warehouse, Miss Wilson had minor luxuries that many of the other students did not. On Saturdays- after locking up the warehouse and taking the key to the police station by the market-, he would bring home a large bag of groceries and fruit. She notes “most of the girls I played with did not get oranges” so most lunchtimes as they played on the street outside school, she would quickly head home in order to collect oranges to give to her classmates.
The next stage of her education starts on an especially sombre note. When she turned ten, exactly ten years after her mother’s death on bonfire night, her father was snatched away from her too. After his passing, against her aunts wishes- she was sent to Manchester Warehousemen and Clerks’ Orphan School in Cheadle Hulme.
In 1855 a committee was created in efforts to create and scheme that later came to be known as the “Manchester District Schools for Orphans and Necessitous Children of Warehousemen and Clerks”. It was decided that the school would focus its’ efforts entirely on the orphans and necessitous children with fathers deceased in those fields of work and identified the organisation as non-denominational. From 1862 onwards, they began taking fees from the day student in order to finance their help of the orphans. This unfortunately led to a stigma they held against them. Orphans- like Miss Wilson- were refered to as ‘foundationers’ and although were not separated from the other children, there was a class/ cultural divide prevalent there for the whole six years she attended.
She was sent to “mix with children from a much better background than [her] own”. This would be a testing change in anyone’s life, let alone for a ten-year old child. In one fell swoop, she had lost not only her father but also her family, home, friends. She was now surrounded by people “who would look down their noses at a girl from Ancoats”. She notes that because of her working class heritage she had “an unfairly complex feeling that everyone was better that [her]”.
Despite the hardships she faced, Miss Wilson still thrived when it came down to her actual education at “16 with a minimum school privilege of a very good report.” Overall, Miss Wilson’s school life was an interestingly mixed one, experiencing school life on different levels of privilege. Her experiences are however overarchingly positive.
Joyce Goodman and Sylvia Harrop in their journal “women, educational Policy-Making and Administration in England: Authorative women since 1800” examine the way that the educational system was still extremely sexist and although laws had been implemented in the years leading up to Miss Wilson’s attendance, they did not prevent certain biases from still being held and perpetuated. She stated that “the work on the governance of working class girls, in the early nineteenth century, the women of Manchester and London school boards and teaching for pupils” was still lacking and although steps have been taken to progressively equalise the students and staff, still during Miss Wilson’s time at Cheadle Hulme this was not the case.
Joyce Goodman, “Women, Educational Policy Making and Admisistration in England- Athoratative women since 1800”, Page ten, Routledge