Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mary Carpenter

British Educational Reformer

Mary was the daughter of a Unitarian Minister, and was educated by her father. Mary worked as a governess, and then, with her mother, opened a small girls' school (as opposed to a school for small girls) in Bristol (1829). Mary became concerned with the needs of deprived children, and this led her to India (which she visited four times during her lifetime) to study the conditions there.

But it was in England that her greatest work was accomplished. Mary opened a "ragged school" in the slums of Bristol (1846). Here she stressed a mutual confidence between teacher and pupil, no corporal punishment or holding up to ridicule, for teachers to become acquainted with the child's home surroundings, the teaching of a trade as well as formal education, and filed trips to places of learning. Mary had nearly 200 children voluntarily attending. And for those more delinquent and unruly of children, Mary set up the Red Lodge Reform School (1854) and another school at Kingswood near Bristol (1857). Mary also paid great attention to after-care, maintaining contact and interest after placing the child with a suitable employer.

Many of Mary's proposals were incorporated into the Amendments to the Industrial Act of 1857 (1861 & 1866). Mary succeeded in persuading the Government to authorise school-boards to establish day-feeding industrial schools (1876). And it was Mary who virtually created the current English structure of childcare for deprived and delinquent children. Her educational work took her not only to India but to America (1873), Canada and France. In all three countries, Mary studied the prison system and pointed out any defects she had found.

In additional to her education works, Mary established the National India Association (1870) to promote India in England. Mary wrote many books and pamphlets designed to reform education from primary to higher levels.

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