Dorothy Squires (b.1897): Education and Schooling

Dorothy’s education was very important to her. She attended Holy Trinity School in Waltham Cross and her earliest memories of the education were “Scripture lessons” (1) and in her infant school she remembers “learning thread and bobbin […] and to darn” (1). She continues by giving the reader a basic lesson in darning saying you have “to pick up one colour and go over the rest” (2). Dorothy attended school in the very early 1900s and because of this Dorothy says they “never had pens” (2) but they did have “slates in a frame and a slate pencil, tied on with a string” (2). There were also no separate classrooms, this meant classes were in “the main hall, which was divided by partitions and wood and glass panels at the tops so [they] couldn’t see other classes at work, when [they] were sitting at [their] desks” (2). According to historians, mass classrooms were not uncommon in the early 1900’s. Rose says, ‘Given the very large classes common in working-class schools, mass memorization was often the only workable teaching strategy. John Lanigan recalled that his overcrowded classroom accommodated five grades: “Under such conditions each individual scholar had to learn how to concentrate on his own class and lesson, and shut his eyes and ears to what was taking place in the other class.’ (Rose, 1993).

Slate in Edwardian Classroom

Due to working in such close quarters discipline in education was important, the children “always had to stand to attention, should the Governess come into the classroom” (2). Dorothy feared being hit by the cane and she “used to respect [her] teachers” (2) she recalls, “I have one strike on the palm of my hand, for talking which made me careful not to talk in class” (2) but she “made up for it when we went out to play” (2). Playground games consisted of “skipping ropes” (3) that they had to bring into school themselves as they “were not given anything to play games with.” (3). As Dorothy got older she was taught “to dance the May-pole and folk dancing” (3) such traditions now rarely seen within the education system. Dorothy obviously enjoyed dancing as she carried this on into her extra curricular activities from being about eleven years old. The teachers saw Dorothy and her older sister’s potential as her “father was a good dancer” (3), so invited them to attend, but Dorothy and her sister were always partners. This love for dancing was carried on into her adult life, attending dancing classes as she was writing the diary portion of her memoir (please see post on leisure).

Dorothy was an intelligent child and her academic potential was seen by her teachers as she was put forward for the “11 plus scholarship” (4). Sadly, for Dorothy, the papers came too late and she was “2 months too old for it” (4). She says, “I was very disappointed as I liked school and wanted to go on learning” (4). Although she was unable to attend grammar school, she did attend cookery classes and learnt to make bread. The bread was well received at home, and her brother “used to eat most of it as he thought it was smashing” (5).

Dorothy’s education was abruptly ended due to an accident on a day out with her youngest sister. Dorothy was left with shock which gave her ‘a nervous breakdown (El Vitus Dance)” (6) After never hearing about El Vitus dance I did a little research according to Neuroscientist Mo Costandi ‘St. Vitus’s Dance is a disorder of the nervous system that occurs following an A β-haemolytic streptococcal infection. The condition is usually latent, with the symptoms presenting up to 6 months after the initial infection. It normally occurs between 5-15 years of age, but can also appear later in life, and affects girls about twice as much as it does boys. St. Vitus’s Dance is characterised by involuntary and uncoordinated movements of the face, hands and feet.’ (Constandi, 2007). This meant that she had to spend a lot of time away from school and being thirteen at the time “The governor said [she] had learnt all there was to know having been down for the 11 plus” (6) and as Dorothy says, “not being the exact age to go for it” (6). The way in which Dorothy writes about having to leave school at such a young age shows her disappointment.

Dorothy’s belief in education was enforced in her children. Both of Dorothy’s daughters started school at the age of five, “the eldest on liked school, but the youngest one used to cry if [she] wasn’t there when they were put out to play” (46) as she thought it was time to go home. Although the eldest Dora enjoyed school, and attended college, “her report, hadn’t been encouraging” (52), So she left education to pursue a career at the Co-op. This allowed her family to get a mortgage loan approved to but a home from the Co-op (see Home and Family).

Westminster College, Cambridge

Dorothy’s grandson-in-law Edward attended Westminster College Cambridge. He trained there for three years to become a parson. Dorothy was “surprised at the amount of subjects that they [had] to learn, including Jewish” (123) but she added that they may have to “attend to anyone whatever their religion may be in case of illness or death” (123). Edward’s training incorporated two things that Dorothy was passionate about, furthering one’s education and faith (See post on belief).


Primary Bibliography

2:735 SQUIRES, Dorothy, Untitled, MS, pp.142 (c.18,000 words). Brunel University Library

Secondary Bibliography

Costandi, M. (2007). St Vitus Dance. [Blog] Neurophilosophy. Available at: [Accessed 3 Apr. 2018].

Rose, Jonathan. ‘Willingly to School: The Working-Class Response to Elementary Education in Britain, 1875-1918’, Journal of British Studies 32. 2 1993, 114-138.


Classroom [image] URL:

Slate in classroom [image] URL:

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