Manuscripts and Special Collections

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Women at Work and Leisure

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the lives of society ladies were very different from those of most women. Images of fashionable dress and hair styles contrast with the records of charitable organisations.

The 'Ladies' complete pocket-book' for 1772 includes a picture of 'Nine Court & City Beauties', to inspire the followers of fashion. The book was full of useful information, with essays on dress, descriptions of ladies in foreign countries, and accounts of places frequented by people in society.

A century later, the generosity of Lady Harriet Bentinck shows another aspect of women's history. Among the many charities she supported, several concerned the plight of respectable girls and women who were unable to work.

The Cheltenham Institution for the Training of Respectable Girls as Domestic Servants received 5 from Lady Harriet. Also involved in training was the Society for Employing Necessitous Gentlewomen, which tackled the issue of employment for well-educated women, with particular reference to the daughters of clergymen, officers and professional men.

The Governess' Benevolent Institution was ambitious in its appeal for funds, suggesting that donors should make bequests or codicils, and focusing on the needs of the elderly and retired. Lady Harriet responded generously, with 700.

Further sources relating to this subject area are held by Manuscripts and Special Collections at King's Meadow Campus. See our website for information about our collections and catalogues.

Nine court and city beauties Zoom in

Nine court and city beauties

Cheltenham Institution donation Zoom in

Cheltenham Institution donation

Governess' Benevolent Institution donation Zoom in

Governess' Benevolent Institution donation

Ladies' Printing Press donation Zoom in

Ladies' Printing Press donation

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