Random Excerpts from Parents’ Review Magazines

Random notes from perusing hard copies I once had in my possession:

I’m finding myself very interested in Mrs. Steinthal- the Aunt Mai in the children’s section and one of the names Miss Mason lists as being involved from the beginning.

I found this in the preface of vol. 6-This is how the late Mrs. Francis Steinthal, who was the happy instigator of the movement in Council Schools, wrote,-” Think of the meaning of this in the lives of the children,-disciplined lives, and no lawless strikes, justice, an end to class warfare, developed intellects, and no market for trashy and corrupt literature! We shall, or rather they will, live in a redeemed world.” This was written in a moment of enthusiasm on hearing that a certain County Council had accepted a scheme of work for this pioneer school; enthusiasm sees in advance the fields white to the harvest, but indeed the event is likely to justify high expectations. Though less than nine years have passed since that pioneer school made the bold attempt, already many thousands of children working under numerous County Councils are finding that “Studies serve for delight”

The  Armitt Library holds a whole bunch of Charlote Mason archival stuff? Sophia Armitt was a regular contributor of nature writing in the PR. More about her here.


Other sidelines: At one point a Miss E. Stewart Woods offered to take up the art criticism of students’ work for older students, those who had graduated from Mrs. STeinthal’s teaching. I’d like to think I found some of her work here: http://www.artis-jgg.co.nz/j_grant/pics/eng_landscape.html



From the P.N.E.U. Notes of no. 7:

Richmond and Kew branch: “….Mrs. Edward Sieveking lectured on the “Practical Relation of Parents in the Educated Classes towards the Nursery.” …dwelt on the importance of mothers in the upper classes being more with their children and not relegating all their own duties to paid substitutes. Mothers lost a great deal by not doing more themselves for their children, as in many cases the children the children were more attached to the nurse than to the mother, which was only natural, the former being constantly with them. French and German mothers set a much better example. A German lady told Mrs. Sieveking that in her house there was no such thing as a nursery, the children lived entirely with their parents, and she expressed surprise that English children were left so much to servants….Mothers gave many excuses for not occupying themselves in their nurseries– health, claims of society, etc., A book which could be recommended to all mothers as the greatest help in the nursery was Miss Mason’s “Home Education.”….

Still, she also stresses the need to choose your nurse wisely, talks much about what the nurses can and should do and hoped that at some time ‘a large percentage of the educated classes would take up the nursery as a profession….’  Mrs. Edward Sieveking may possibly have been married to this Edward Sieveking, a prominent London physician who did some important work in the field of epilepsy research.

The P.N.E.U. had only 2,000 members at that time.

Miss Blogg, the secretary who later married G. K. Chesterton, gave a talk on the work of the main office. At the close of her speech Mrs. Steinthal thanked Miss Blogg and remarked “…We are constantly getting letters from mothers and others saying that she has quite won them over to our side by her nice letters.”

(sidenote:She also had a letter expressing her regret at leaving the work, not exactly regret, since she was happy to be marrying, but you know what I mean- and saying that just because she was leaving the secretarial position that did not mean she would not still be furthering the work of the Union and its ideals in any way she could.)

At the same meeting Miss Mason added that Mrs. Steinthal’s work was also very important. “The portfolio and the various sewing, cooking and gardening clubs are the great delights of children in many homes. I have known children who seize on the Parents’ Review before the parents get a chance, so keen are they to see what “Aunt Mai” has to say…” Miss Mason also said that a House of Education student had told her that a student’s improvement should be credited to The influence of the Union generally, and above all to ‘Aunt Mai….’ Miss Mason further added that “Aunt Mai’s” work is at the very heart of the Union.

Here’s a sample of one of Aunt Mai’s letters

“My Dear Children, — I must first of all wish you a very Happy New Year. The happiness depends on yourselves, does it not? If you make good resolutions that you will be very obedient, very orderly, and that you will help everybody younger and weaker than yourselves, then the year 1897 will be a very happy one, and mother and father will before pleased with their boys and girls.

We now begin all our new work, and I hope that many new nieces will join our extensive family. Many children have learned to love sewing while making the clothes for the wax and the live dolls.

I should like suggestions to be sent to me this month of new competitions you would like to work for. Aunts have so much thinking to do, that sometimes they feel that they can invent nothing more, and then they are delighted if young brains set to work and help them, and the old ladies begin to feel quite young and fresh again.

Your loving

Auntie Mai.”


Vol. VIII, No. 11

Miss Mason writes in the letter bag that “It has long been our custom here to have a Sunday afternoon reading which we find very helpful, as giving us subjects in common for thought, prayer, and endeavour, increasing our interest in the Bible, enabling us to deal better with the doubts and difficulties which are in the air, and , above all, deepening our spiritual life. It is our habit to read through, from Sunday to Sunday, one of the four Gospels, with comments which are more in the nature of a practical meditation than of a lecture or of a lesson.” She further calls this a ‘weekly stimulus to a higher life….” And is offering to mail out their weekly readings to mothers and House of Education graduates in the field who may be interested in sharing.

From a Pater Junior (certainly a pen-name), who writes regularly to the letter-bag apparently in the nature of a clipping service on education related articles in other publications shares this:

“Mr. Quiller-Couch discourse pleasantly of education, classical, technical, maternal, not forgetting that branch of physical training which is concerned with the birch-rod….The following will appeal to teachers:– A distinguished pedagogue once observed that boys are usually amenable to reason, masters sometimes, parents never. I take it, he had his eye on the modern parent, who imagines technical instruction to be an excellent substitute for education, and that the study of the humanities can be profitably replaced by Sir. Isaac Pitman’s Shorthand. Education, which converts ‘the small apple-eating urchin, whom we know’ into an orderly citizen, respecting himself and his neighbour, is a gradual process not easily tested by examination papers. Technical instruction is far brisker, is quite easily tested, and produces the pleasantest immediate results in the shape of hard cash. The parent fascinated by these cheap advantages, is generally ill to deal with; and while the parent asks for shorthand, and the head-master for a free hand, there is bound to be some friction of temper.”

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (he was knighted in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s I think, for his work in the literary and educational fields) is the editor of the Oxford Anthology of English verse, used by CM in her schools and by HE in the upper years. He is also the “Q” referred to in ’84 Charing Cross Road’ and/or its sequel.

In Leeds a “Mrs. Mirrlees gave an address to mothers  on ‘Heart Culture.'”

And this article, the opening paragraph of which warms my heart:

“When I lived in what is sometimes called a “state of single bliss,” I used to find it easier to exhort parents– and especially mothers– about their parental duties, than I find it now. How many a time, as an inexperienced bachelor, did I almost wax eloquent in the enunciation of ideal principles which should guide parents in the important matter of training up a child in the way it should go! Since I became a parent myself and have got a look from the inside at the difficulties and responsibilities of a parent, and especially of a mother, I find I am not quite so ready of tongue to lecture parents, though my hear beats with fuller sympathy for them now than it ever did in bachelor days….It is easy to be a doctrinaire on the subject of parental duties, but to be a prophet one must graduate in the university of the nursery, where the professors are one’s own babies….”

Miss Mason spoke at several branch meetings in the fall; her topic was on Letting Alone. According to the report of the Harrow secretary, she said ‘that she thought that children are just a little too much to the front nowadays, and that we sacrifice the children’s virtues for the sake of developing our own– a suggestion behind which lies the deep waters of a seldom-thought-upon truth. She went on to remark that the “wistful mothers” of the present day are a little apt to wear on the children’s nerves. The lecture throughout was listened to with quiet, thoughtful attention…”

A Mr. Tufnail lectured two different branches on toadstools, and the secretaries of both branches referred to his lecture as suggestive and stimulating. I know this seems silly, but a suggestive and stimulating lecture on toadstools by a Mr. Tufnail struck my funny bone. I was equally amused by another report which was held with a Rev. Somebody Bird in the chair (chairing the meeting). I think somebody else noticed this, too, because the _next_ report from the branch was reworded- ‘in the chair was Rev. Somebody Bird.’

The PR had many clubs, one of which intrigued me was a foreign language translation group. They were set a passage in German to translate each month, mailed their translations in to be graded in some fashion and announcements were made in the PR as to who had done exceptionally well.

A new edition of Maria Edgeworth’s Helps for Parents comes in for some mild, but friendly praise in the book reviews.


Regarding movies: I note also that many of the local chapter meetings include ‘lime light’ shows- a form of slide show (One also featured everybody getting x-rayed and looking at their bones- sounds like a jolly meeting).

More on discipline and how things have changed…

Vol.. VIII, no.3: At the Derby branch of the PNEU: “… The results of scientific observation and experience in the matter of education should be widely known, because people could not now, as too often had been the habit, throw all the blame on parents, and say that the fault rested entirely with them….

Miss Barnette…delivered a… Lecture on “Training and Inheritance.”… ‘…and said that sometimes what was mistaken for heredity was merely imitation, and therefore it was beneficial to a child to be sent away from home for a time before its character was formed.”

She delivered this same lecture later in the month, at the Wallasey branch, so it must have been generally accepted by _somebody_ as PNEU compatible.


From an article on obedience in Vol. VIII, no. 4: “I find no difficulty in securing obedience from my children,” says one. ….”Suppose my little boy is playing in the drawing room, I tell him, ‘you may play as long as you’re good.’ He begins to be naughty. I ring the bell; the nurse comes down and the boy goes up. He forfeits the pleasure of my company. The plan is simplicity itself.”

Riiiiiight.  Of course it would be very easy to have your children always obedient in your presence if you banished them the second you find them tiresome and left them in somebody else’s care.  really, what an obnoxious, smug person.

For the Sol-fa people, here are a couple mentions of  Mrs. Curwen:

Volume VIII, No. 4, notes on the local PNEU groups:

Richmond and Kew branch:…”Mrs. Spencer Curwen, who had kindly consented to fill a blank at the last moment, delivered an interesting address on “Children’s Music.”…the first introduction to musical notation should be through the singing class, the tonic sol-fa notation and method being the best for this purpose. There was not advantage in beginning instrumental work at five or six years of age. Bad habits of technique might be formed by beginning too early. The first pianoforte lessons were often spoken of as drudgery…something wrong in the teaching.”

A reference to teaching foreign language in  Vol. VIII, no. 4;

Wimbledon branch had a lecture on teaching foreign language. Mdlle. Duriaux addressed previous defects in the teaching of foreign language based on long, tedious grammar rules and translations. Instead, she had prepared ‘ a course of quite short lessons, each consisting of a short series of actions that a child could easily follow and remember. One of these short series she then proceeded to give to a class of four little boys, and thereby unmistakeably [sic] proved the truth of what she had been saying. It was evident at once how interesting and intelligible such lessons must be to children, and how quickly they could learn to repeat and understand the few short sentences without word having been “translated” to them.”

This sounds exactly like a program I used to have,  but I can’t recall the name.

And this more general bit of info on the PNEU and the first conference has many little tidbits of information one could glean:

Vol VIII, No. 7; on the first PNEU Conference:

…”in framing the programme, the object kept in view was to tell members ‘what the P.N.E.U. Is,’ and how branches can bring its teaching before their members. The groundwork of the arrangements was the leaflet which is published each month in the Parents’ Review…

…To carry out this idea, Miss Helen Webb, M. B. [my note: she delivered the talk to nurses that I shared earlier], and Miss Mason were asked to read papers, which should help parents in working out the underlying principle of the Union, “That character is everything.” Miss Mason also gave definite help to branch secretaries as to the best subjects to put before their members when arranging for monthly lectures on the physical, mental, moral and spiritual development of children.

Mrs. Steinthal [note: Aunt Mai, who did the ‘Budget’, the children’s section of teh PR] emphasized the value of art and manual training in education, and the best method for securing it.”

From Sir Vincent Kennett Barrington’s remarks: “Miss Mason has told us that the Union lays no claim to any exclusive methods; she reminds us that we are a progressive body, and that we are going on by the help of modern thinkers…” ———————————–

I both enjoyed the browsing and found it discouraging at the same time. I wrote to myself: “I  think I need to get _much_ better organized. I think I need to get up at 5 a.m. and put the kitchen in order, get a crockpot meal going, have a breakfast casserole made, or maybe start once a month cooking again. I need to plan and prepare various tasks in advance for the purpose of distracting the children. You know, when I see that look in the macknae’s eye, I _could_ send him to the crockpot- I could have a dish of spices or cut up veggies ready and waiting for him to add. I could have salad stuff ready for them to mix, I could have a letter ready for somebody to go put in the mail box, a plant to be watered, a pickle to put in daddy’s lunch box for the next day…. Sigh. This all requires so much _forethought_ and I am so much a loosey-goosey type who has wonderful ideas- but at best,  two hours after the time to implement them…. I think I need a nurse. And an under-nurse. And a cook. And a gardener. And definitely a housemaid.



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