‘To Teach Little Boys And Girls What It Is Proper For Them To Know’: Gendered Education and the Nineteenth-Century Children’s Dictionary

By November 17, 2016,
Page613-618
AuthorSarah Hoem Iversen
Title‘To Teach Little Boys And Girls What It Is Proper For Them To Know’: Gendered Education and the Nineteenth-Century Children’s Dictionary
AbstractThis paper explores the role nineteenth-century children’s dictionaries in the gendered education of children. Children’s dictionaries have been widely regarded as mid-twentieth-century phenomena. Pre-twentieth-century lexicography, meanwhile, has been traditionally regarded as an exclusively male pursuit. Contrary to these assumptions there were, in fact, many dictionaries specifically written for children in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Several of these were compiled by women who drew on their experience as educators. Children’s dictionaries in this period aimed, not simply to impart the meaning of words, but also to provide a social and moral education. This moral didacticism can be seen to form part of an ongoing construction of gender identities for children in this time. As lexicographer Anna Murphy put it in her 1813 A First, Or Mother’s Dictionary for Children, to educate was ‘To teach little boys and girls what it is proper for them to know’. Through dictionary definitions, illustrative examples, and pictorial illustrations, girls and boys were constructed in different ways, and as exhibiting different virtues (or vices). Although this paper focuses mainly on dictionaries compiled by female lexicographers, and the ways in which these works addressed female readers, dictionaries compiled by men are also considered for comparative purposes. Similarly, though the discussion centres on constructions of the prototypical ‘good girl’, the ‘good boy’ is also considered, especially since these prototypes were often seen to define each other by antithesis. The extent to which individual lexicographers’ personal and political positions came into play is significant and could lead to ideological patterns deviating from dominant gender ideologies; some female compilers, for instance, actively contested some of the limitations placed on feminine identity.
SessionDictionary use, pedagogical lexicography
Keywordschildren's dictionaries, education, gender, nineteenth century, Britain
BibTex
@InProceedings{ELX12-051,
author = {Sarah Hoem Iversen},
title = {‘To Teach Little Boys And Girls What It Is Proper For Them To Know’: Gendered Education and the Nineteenth-Century Children’s Dictionary},
pages = {613--618},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 15th EURALEX International Congress},
year = {2012},
month = {aug},
date = {7-11},
address = {Oslo,Norway},
editor = {Ruth Vatvedt Fjeld and Julie Matilde Torjusen},
publisher = {Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, University of Oslo},
isbn = {978-82-303-2228-4},
}
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