Memorial from Alexandra College. Nov.1878

Conference in Belfast. Dec. 1878

Letter to Northern Whig, Oct. 1880

Memorial to Commissioners of Intermediate Education from Alexandra College and Council, 15 November 1878.

The memorialists having the superintendence of institutions containing between 400 and 500 female students, request the favourable attention of the Commissioners of Intermediate Education to the provisions of the Act in its application to girls and they respectfully suggest, that when preparing a scheme in detail under the Act, the Commissioners will include such arrangements for the examination of girls as may seem best.

The memorialists wish to express their willingness that such examination should be held, so far as the Commissioners approve, in the subjects and books prescribed for boys and according to the same standard. But they are strongly of the opinion that the examination of girls should be held apart from those of boys and they desire to submit this point to the consideration of the Commissioners.


  1. Who sent this memorial and why would their opinions on girls' education be considered important?
  2. Were boys and girls to be treated in the same way under the Intermediate Act at this stage?
  3. Were girls' schools labouring under any difficulties which would place them at a disadvantage in these examinations? How did the memorialists wish to change this situation? Explain your answer.
  4. Compare this memorial with other sources on the same theme.
  5. Find out whether this memorial was successful or not.

Conference held in the Ladies' Collegiate School, Belfast, at the request of the Ladies' Institute.

The main object of the Conference was to elicit the opinion of the professors who were present as to whether the same standards of papers would be suitable for both boys and girls under the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act. After a very full and exhaustive discussion, four of the professors, who have been examiners of the girls in the Local University Examinations being present, the following resolutions were passed:-

Moved by Professor Purser, seconded by Miss Tod:

(1) That the Intermediate Education Commissioners be requested to take measures that the girls be examined at the same time and on the same papers as the boys.

Moved by Professor Nesbitt, seconded by Mrs Byers:

(2) That due weight in the scale of marking should be given to those subjects usually studied by girls.

Women's Education Union Magazine, December 1878.


  1. Who was the moving force behind this conference?
  2. Why was this conference held in Belfast?
  3. Examine the first resolution moved by Professor Purser and compare/contrast it with the previous document from Alexandra College.
  4. Why do you think would Mrs Byers favour the second resolution? Explain your answer.
  5. Which resolution would you favour and why?
  6. Why do you think this document stressed that four professors, who had been examiners in the Local University Examinations, were present?
  7. Comment on the degree of co-operation between women reformers in Dublin and Belfast at this time as suggested by this document.
  8. Was this Conference successful or not? Explain your answer.

Letter to The Northern Whig, 1st October 1880 from J.C. Greer, Annadale arguing against Intermediate examinations for Girls

Intermediate examinations, as ... regards young women are an evil and an evil which we shall all come to see in time, and I hope before much more mischief has been done. Women, I believe should not be put forward into the world to compete with men. I do not say this on the selfish grounds that they are formidable opponents, not to be encouraged. I cannot believe that they would ever be able to hold their own in man's place, let alone beat them ... their nature is such that any publicity of life helps to spoil the womanliness which is their charm, and without which they are hybrids, half men, half women, with the faults of both. Some of the subjects put forward at these examinations are not fit for girls. I do not approve of Mathematics and Science for women. I cannot conceive of a girl being a 'Senior Wrangler' or of a 'Woman Huxley' being a tender wife and loving mother and having a well-ordered household ... Let us educate our girls at home, educate them well, but at home, where surrounded by pure and holy natural influences they may grow up gentle, womanly, healthy beings.


  1. What kind of source is this? Does it seem balanced or is it biased in any way?
  2. Why did the author think that Intermediate examinations were not suitable for girls?
  3. Place this letter in the context of its time.
  4. Find out from other sources if these views were representative of society in general at this time.
  5. Why do you think the author disapproved of Mathematics and Science for women?
  6. Write a reply to the Northern Whig explaining why you think that these views were out of date by 1880. (Not more than 250 words).
  7. Class to debate the topic 'That women should be educated at home'. One half of the class to agree with the motion, the other to argue against.
  8. Find out what the author means by the term 'Senior Wrangler' or a 'Woman Huxley.
  9. Can you detect any influences from other sources which might explain the writer's views?
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