Female Primary And Secondary Education (Second Half Of 19Th - Early 20Th Centuris)


The issue of female education is one of the most important ones in pre-revolutionary historiography. The article examines the views of Russian scientists, public figures and clergy on the right of women to education and its ideals in the second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries. The author used the methods of intellectual history and disciplinary history of science, which made it possible to identify and analyze an interesting discussion that was conducted in Russian society. Russian studies directly or indirectly affecting the issue of female education were studied. The second group of research materials was the corpus of texts from the journal "Eparchial Vedomosti" published in the late 19th – early 20th centuries, which made it possible to reflect opinions of the clergy. The Russian Orthodox Church condemned secular education in the absence of spiritual and moral education. Not only the clergy demanded the education of girls; for example, P.F. Kapterev also considered it important to study the "Law of God" in order to enlighten and humanize women's feelings. Secular literature discussed the atmosphere in the family and quality of education of the new generation, development of society as a whole which depended on the education of a woman as a mother. The clergy defended the idea about the importance of spiritual and moral education of women.

Keywords: Russian Empire, female primary and secondary education, secular and church ideals, female educational institutions, public opinion, discussions


The education of girls began in the 1860s after the reform of primary education under Catherine II and the establishment of the "Educational institution for noble maidens." During the reign of Alexander II, the authorities and society recognized the need for widespread literacy, including among the female part of the population. In the second half of the XIX – early XX centuries, the availability of female education was emphasized. In the post-reform era, the ideas of modernizing female education were widely discussed, each project was based on the idea of ​​the nature of genders, recognition of the emancipation, from which the "ideological conformity" of the curriculum and educational goals were derived.

The object is female issues in secular and spiritual social thought of the second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries.

The chronological framework of the study includes the second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries. It is necessary to associate the lower limit with the active awareness of the female issue in Russia, and, as a result, with the publication of the first works devoted to this issue, including the possibility of female education. The upper chronological limit is the turn of the 1910s – 1920s which is the beginning of the Soviet period in the history. It was associated with a radical change in attitudes towards the role of women in society.

Sources. First, Russian studies, directly or indirectly affecting the issue of female education, were studied. The second group of research materials was the corpus of texts from the journal "Eparchial Vedomosti" published in the late 19th – early 20th centuries, which made it possible to reflect the views of the clergy.

Problem Statement

Before the perestroika era, there was no scientific interest in the problems of feminism, since in terms of the Marxist-Leninist ideology, a woman was free. Since the post-Soviet period, the women's issue has been relevant.

O.A. Khasbulatova identified the reasons for the slowdown in the process of reforming the education sector, among which are dominant social ideas about a woman as a mother and mistress of the house (Khasbulatova, 2003).

In recent years, scientists have been interested in the regional aspect of the issue. The subjects of research were the main stages of development of female education in Tobolsk since the emergence of the first educational institutions at the turn of the 1840–50s until 1917 (Tsys, Tsys, 2017), the specifics of the educational policy of the Tuvan People's Revolutionary Party (Dorzhu, Ochur, 2018), the formation of the system of female education in Buryatia (Altayeva, 2018), the evolution of women primary and secondary education in Oryol province (Khabaleva, 2017), the development of school education in the Turgai region in the second half of the 19th century (Karpykova, Utegenova, Ospanov, 2018), the history of education in Yaroslavl region in the late 18th – early 20th centuries (Marasanova, Albegova, Shamatonova, 2011)

The reform of female education and changes in attitudes towards educated girls are linked to the female movement. According to V.A. Drobchenko, one of the important factors that determined the active participation of women in public life was the development of female education (Drobchenko 2009).

In the Russian literature, materials on the views about the role of women, changes in their position in society depending on the development of the education system were accumulated. At the same time, it should be emphasized that the attitude of secular and ecclesiastical representatives of society to the female education expressed in literature and periodicals of the second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries is understudied.

Research Questions

The subject of the research is the attitude of secular society and the clergy to the primary and secondary education of women expressed in the periodicals.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to find out what was the attitude of secular and ecclesiastical representatives of society towards female education expressed in literature and periodicals of the second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries.

Research Methods

The research is based on the principle of historicism, which helps to trace the genesis, formation and trends of social development, and the method of a comparative analysis.


The impetus for the development of female education in Russia was not socio-economic and political needs, but the liberal ideas of the Western European Enlightenment, which were supported by scientists, statesmen and enlightened monarchs. Many of them understood the need for female education in different ways (A.F. Bestuzhev, Empress Catherine II and Elizabeth Petrovna, M.V. Lomonosov, E. Prokopovich, S.G. Skovoroda, F. Saltykov, V.N. Tatishchev, N.I. Novikov and others) (Shtyleva 2012).

However, if the content of "male education" was determined by the principles of extensive general and special education, the content of female education was determined by the models of "aesthetic" and "utilitarian" femininity (Kapterev, 2007), corresponding to the concept of sex-role education by J. Rousseau, F. Fenelon, and did not go beyond the traditional religious and ecclesiastical ideas of the ruling elite about the normative femininity and masculinity (Shtyleva, 2012).

The periodicals of the second half of the 19th – beginning of the 20th centuries devoted to the female issue argued that 1) the atmosphere in the family and quality of education of the new generation, development of society as a whole depend on the education of a woman as a mother, 2) women must have family rights, the husband's attitude must be changed; 3) women need rights to strengthen marriage, create more harmonious relations in the family; 4) mental development is a woman’s right and duty (Spichak, 2020).

A number of scholars tried to find an ideal of the female education reflecting the needs of both sexes and corresponding to the ideal of a woman in general.

The search for the ideal of female education began in the days of the Society of Noble Maidens, established in 1765 by Catherine II. Mikhnevich explained the failure of the empress's idea by the fact that, in addition to the ephemerality of the plan, society was not ready for educational reforms and reacted coldly to the idea of ​​creating a "new breed of people" in Russia. Closed educational institutions were designed to educate "new" perfect women and citizens, and in fact betrayed the type of a Russian woman – a schoolgirl, "a charming creature in a salon setting, which in everyday life often turned out to be a bad mother and wife, a wasteful and inexperienced hostess, and a being incapable of any kind of work." Demand gave birth to supply, “in those days – the period of sentimentalism, pretentiousness and courtesanism, they liked such lily-muslin women. However, already in the second half of the XIX century, against the background of the abolition of serfdom and other transformations, requirements for women changed, “secularism” and external education were ridiculed, and the need for a more “earthly” education appeared (Mikhnevich, 1895).

According to the founder of Russian educational psychology P.F. Kaptereva, "the aesthetic ideal of female education is due to the fact that men appreciated the "beautiful precious frame" of women more, while beauty could "give her the opportunity to influence him and dominate him." The aesthetic ideal of female education had two forms: a simpler ideal consisting mainly of worries about decorating the body, and more complex one, which does not reject concern for the body, but supplements it with the decoration of the spirit, supplying it "with talents that increase the charm of a female being." ... The teacher tried to find the ideals of female education that would replace those existing at that time and change the current situation for the better. According to P.F. Kapterev, it was necessary to change the attitude of men towards women, their claims about qualities of an ideal woman (Kapterev, 2007). One of the means contributing to the progress of women, including the development of their education, is the fact that men prefer women as friends who have the most powerful qualities such as intelligence, energy and courage (Mizhuev, 1906).

In 1908, A.V. Govorov summarize a disputes about the importance of women in society and female education in Russia. The author came to the conclusion that it is necessary to provide women with an access to serious and versatile knowledge in order to “fulfill the great testament of Friedrich Nietzsche” – a higher improvement of the family by educating the future generation. A.V. Govorov shared the opinion of V.P. Ostrogorsky: “let the XX century will raise the importance of a female educator”. A.V. Govorov recognized the issues of modern school and education as sore issues, and the "best sanatorium for them" was a healthy family atmosphere, in which the mother would be a source of warmth and light. He dealt with the attitude of husbands towards their wives: "a free woman, armed with knowledge, full of consciousness of her strength and dignity", a woman will force a man "to abandon the role of a master and consider his wife as a companion of soul and body” (Govorov, 1908).

It is interesting that the problem posed by A.V. Govorov is still relevant. In 2007, K.V. Shabalkina presented the results of the struggle for women's rights in the following way: “the traditional conservative stereotype of understanding a woman and her mission is rather blurred, and the modern ideal of a business woman, a socially and politically engaged feminist, has not found universal recognition”. The search for the "golden mean" emphasizes the relevance of the issue. A possible way out of this situation is to study the past experience, including the views of contemporaries of the beginning of revolutionary changes in the position of women in the second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries. It is also permissible to borrow some of their positive ideas (Shabalkina, 2007).

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) made a significant contribution to the education of girls in lower and secondary educational institutions, but some high-ranking clerics did not approve the desire of women to do something outside their family. Even if girls studied in secular institutions, when celebrating their graduation, they often received instructions from the church authorities not to forget about their "true purpose." Such speeches were sometimes published so that other women could read the warning of the church. On May 31, 1880, the Bishop of Dmitrov (Klyucharev) explained to the graduates of Moscow Nikolaev Institute that they should not take part in public life, since this was contrary to the rules of St. The Apostle Peter. According to these rules, a woman should not declare and defend her rights, because she had enough to cry to soften her attitude towards herself. Thus, the ROC was not against the education of girls, but forced them to perform their direct duties (Klyucharev, 1880). Giving a speech on the birthday of Empress Maria Feodorovna on November 14, 1902, the holy righteous man told the story of the communication of Mary and Martha with Christ: Mary listened attentively to Christ, and Martha cared about her food, for which she was "meekly convicted." The place of women, according to his opinion, is indicated by God. Instead, “the modern women, especially the so-called intelligent ones, care and speak about many improper things and abandoned their direct female purpose." John of Kronstadt connected female education with the "rejection of church sacraments", "social unrest" (Kronstadtsky, 1903).

In his work “The Christian Purpose of a Woman. Women's emancipation of our time" published in 1909, archpriest N. Stelletsky concluded: " ... the area of ​​female activity is her home rather than social life." The majority of the population of the Russian Empire agreed with this (Zavyalova, 2011). L.V. Shtyleva argues that if in the 18th century the key role in regulating the attitudes towards the "gender issue" in the public consciousness and education of Russians belonged to the church, by the beginning of the XX century there was an increase in the influence of the enlightened public, literature and science (Shtyleva, 2010). However, one should agree with the opinion of S.V. Zavyalova that women were influenced by religion and traditions (Zavyalova, 2011).

For the late XIX – early XX centuries, we have identified little data on the issue in the journal "Eparchial vedomosti", but they allow us to assess the trends in church female educational institutions. The girls who were educated in the educational institutions of the Orthodox department, were supposed to be "faithful helpers for pastors in their family life and church educational activities." We did not find negative reviews about higher education in the articles, but secular education was condemned. Future professional activities of the graduates were narrowed down to "modest teachers", and modesty was recognized as the main female quality. The clergy complained about the indifference of the young generation to the Orthodox education and tried to influence public opinion. One of the methods was the publication of articles in "Eparchial Vedomosti". They called to the spiritual and moral education of girls as future mothers. This thought traces the attitude of society towards female education. Thus, the opinion of the clergy did not run counter to public opinion about female education, the ROC emphasized the importance of spiritual and moral education of women.

P.F. Kapterev considered it important to study the "Law of God" in order to enlighten and humanize female feelings, since education should be of an upbringing nature (Shtyleva, 2010).


According to the literature of the second half of the 19th – beginning of the 20th centuries, despite the positive shifts in attitudes towards female education, the ROC was against female education and professional activities of women. The ROC made a significant contribution to the education of girls in parish schools, gymnasiums. We did not find any negative comments about higher education in "Eparchial Vedomosti", but the articles condemned secular education. P.F. Kapterev (2007) considered it important to study the "Law of God" in order to enlighten and humanize female feelings. Therefore, the main idea of secular literature was that the atmosphere in the family and quality of upbringing of the new generation, development of society as a whole depended on the upbringing and education of a woman as a mother.

Given the lack of methodological ideas feeding the theory and practice of education in Russia at the beginning of the 21st century, the old approaches to the “gender issue in education” deserve special attention. The representations of the post-reform period can be helpful to the modern pedagogical concept.

Acknowledgments [if any]

The study was carried out as part of the grant of the President of the Russian Federation for state support of young Russian scientists – candidates of sciences (Competition – MK-2020) MK-514.2020.6.


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Vladimirovna Spichak, A. (2021). Female Primary And Secondary Education (Second Half Of 19Th - Early 20Th Centuris). In D. K. Bataev, S. A. Gapurov, A. D. Osmaev, V. K. Akaev, L. M. Idigova, M. R. Ovhadov, A. R. Salgiriev, & M. M. Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Knowledge, Man and Civilization - ISCKMC 2020, vol 107. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 2510-2516). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2021.05.337