Nineteenth Century popular belief–wholly supported by Medical Doctors’ and scientists’ claims–genuinely believed that educating females in the same manner as males invited an entire host of disastrous results. Those terrifying results included everything from destruction to the woman’s reproductive system, mental breaks (yes, insanity!), and a long list of physical diseases. Because the vast majority believed these consequences to be true, women weren’t allowed to seek education in a male-dominated classroom. The battle over co-education continued long after the late 19th Century for these reasons. Not only was the woman’s mind and body at terrible risk, should she be educated like a male, but everyone knew a female mind couldn’t take in significant learning.
I endorse newspaper articles as an original source in researching Victorian-era America. Yet while I trust–for the most part–newspaper articles to be a reasonable representation of attitudes, circumstances, happenings, and differing opinions, I’m well aware that not everything in print is fact…at least as presented.
I came across newspaper articles mentioning Mrs. Charlotte Smith, presented as a rather ridiculous woman seeking legislation to force marriage upon the matrimony unencumbered. Three such articles follow, all of which are from credible, well-respected newspapers of the late nineteenth century. At the bottom, I’ll share more of who Mrs. Charlotte Smith was, the platforms she supported, the work she did–and cast an entirely different light on her nature than these newspaper reporters suggest.