on the

15 July, 1878, Second Reading of the Bill

Mr O Shaughnessy, Home Rule M.P. for Limerick.
Had the Government considered the claims of ladies in reference to the Bill? Deputations, including ladies of every creed, waited on the Lord Chancellor and they received answers which proved daily more encouraging to the demand they made. It had been suggested to him that the wording of the bill already admitted them to share its advantages. If this were so, he should be very glad, but if this were not so, the question was worthy of the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, as it was considered to be of such importance in Ireland that it would certainly be pressed on their attention at no remote time. Were the government prepared to supplement the fund which appeared very narrow as it stood, with something for the benefit of girls? He sincerely hoped they were. The programme set forth in the schedule to the Bill was intended for boys, but he believed that women were entitled to an education as broad and as comprehensive as men received, though he hesitated to say that such education should be absolutely identical with that of men. Had the Government considered what would be appropriate to women?

Mr Stansfield, M.P. for Halifax.
The ideas entertained with respect to the education of girls and boys had undergone a great deal of change of late years. It was now becoming recognised ... that girls had an equal right with boys to the best and soundest education, and that society was at least equally interested in the soundest and best education being given to girls as well as to boys.

It was enough to say that the girls of to-day would be the mothers of a future generation of men and that the strongest educational influences were exercised over both boys and girls by mothers, in order to satisfy all reasonable people that men equally with women, were interested in justice being done to girls in that or in any other educational measure ...
There was a great movement on foot for the education of girls in Ireland which was part of the movement of the same character which has been going on in this country. Both the University of Dublin and Queen's University held examinations now for girls, large numbers of whom had passed with credit. And it was also the fact that a large portion of the well-to-do people in Ireland sent their daughters to this country to be educated. He appealed to the Irish members whether they would be satisfied with a measure which left them in this position that they could not educate their daughters at home but must send them across the sea.

Mr Cogan, Home Rule M.P. for Kildare
He should be glad to see the benefits of the measure extended to women, but the alterations in the franework of the Bill which would be required with that view might endanger its passing. Besides if the Bill were extended to girls, an additional sum would be required.

Mr Butt (Leader of the Home Rule Party) Limerick City
He had heard questions discussed tonight that would wreck the Bill. For example the question of the admission of women to the benefits of the Bill had been raised. Now unless they wanted to alter the whole question before the House, he advised them to leave that question alone ... Every man was as anxious for female education as the Right Honorable gentleman (Halifax) was, but they were not all anxious for the kind of female education, which the Right Honorable gentleman would give. The question of convent schools would be at once raised if the subject of female education were introduced into the Bill and so would the admission of women to lectures on anatomy. These were questions which might be discussed hereafter, but this bill was brought in to remedy a defect in the education of boys, and next year if they were anxious to do so they might take up the question of female education, but in the name of commonsense, let it not be mixed up with the present measure.

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Bill considered in Committee, 25 July, 1878

Mr J. Lowther (Attorney General)
When he moved the second Reading of the Bill he was under the impression that as drawn it did not extend to the education of girls. Since the second Reading this subject has been carefully gone into, and he was now informed that it was a matter certainly open to a good deal of legal doaubt as to what the exact application of the present wording of the bill might be ... The Government had no objection whatever to the benefits of the scheme in a reasonable way thrown open to girls as well as boys.
He certainly should have objected to raising any question which might give rise to lengthy debates upon women's rights or any topics of that kind ... He suggested the following words should be introduced after subsection 3: 'For applying, as far as conveniently may be, the benefits of this Act to the education of girls.' (Words taken from the Endowed Schools Act of 1869).

Mr Courtney, Liskeard (Ulster)
... as he believed that the benefits of the Bill as it was at present drawn, were equally open to girls as to boys on precisely the same conditions, it was a limitation of the bill and not an enlargement of it, to insert a proviso giving the commissioners power to deal 'as far as conveniently may be with the education of girls' In fact the Bill as it stood did admit girls equally with boys to its full advantages ... this special proviso clearly pointed to a different style of examination for girls from that of boys.

Sir Joseph McKenna
It should be borne in mind that the fund to be disposed of under the Bill was not very large and indeed, was not sufficient to provide for the requirements of the male youth of Ireland and therefore ... it would not be expedient that it should be divided equally between girls and boys.

Mr Meldon, C.H., Kildare
Why did the Government change its mind? Was it because they were convinced that they were originally wrong? Nothing of the kind. It was simply because a mistake had been made by their draftsman and that it had been found that girls might obtain some advantages under the bill as it was drawn ... While not opposed to a reasonable provision being made for the education of girls, he certainly strongly objected to the victory which the proposed Amendment would give to the advocates of women's rights, whose object was not that there should be a limited measure dealing specially with the education of women, but that the same education should be given to girls as given to men ... Pointed out that in Ireland the same necessity did not exist for any such aid as existed in the case of boys. Ireland was studded over with exceedingly good schools for the education of girls, but for boys no such provision was made. The result was that while girls could be satisfactorily educated in that country it was found necessary, in many instances, to send boys belonging to the same class for the purpose of education to England.

Mr O'Shaughnessy, Home Rule M.P. for Limerick
He could assure his Honorable and learned friend that the question at issue was not one of women's rights but simply of their education and that the object of the amendment was nothing more nor less than to educate the women of Ireland that they may be better able to discharge their duties as daughters, wives and mothers. There were in Ireland, it was quite true, already excellent institutions for the purpose of female education, but it could not be justly said that that education stood in need of no stimulus.

Mr Courtney would place boys and girls on a perfect level in matters of education. He would have them submitted to the same examination and for all he knew would establish competition between them. Now identity of education might do well in theory in England, though he doubted whether it was found to answer in practise. Girls who passed Oxford and Cambridge examinations were scarcely representative ... but however the case be in England or Scotland, Ireland did not want the same thing, and any attempt to establish identity of education as between Irish boys and girls would, he felt satisfied, end in failure.

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12 August, 1878

Mr Courtney, Liskeard (Ulster)
He believed that as the bill stood originally and before these words were inserted, boys and girls stood on the same footing, but these words seemed to suggest that the girls were to wait until the boys were fully provided for. This ought not to be the case. The two sexes should be placed on a footing of perfect equality and it was principally to elicit from the government a declaration that that was their intention, that he had moved the Amendment ... Girls were admitted to the local examinations set on foot by the University of Oxford and Cambridge with the result that the number of girls competing in the senior class was greater than that of the boys, and the same was the case in respect to those who passed with honours ... It was said that it was sufficient if young women were instructed in needlework and cooking. He did not undervalue these, but if they were not to be taught anything else then, logically it ought to be sufficient to educate boys in merely carpentry and farming.

Mr Lowther:
The original words were taken from the English Endowed Acts and had been found to work well. Without injustice to girls what was intended by the words to which the Honourable gentleman objected was not that girls should be placed at a disadvantage as compared with boys, but that the Commissioners should make reasonable rules for the examination of girls and grant exhibitions to them.

Mr Butt (Leader of the Home Rule Party)
The cry for Intermediate Education in Ireland had no reference whatever to girls. His complaint was that the education of young men was of far more importance than the education of girls. When this Bill passed the House of Lords there was not the slightest intention of providing for the education of girls... The meaning of the amendment was to place the education of girls and boys on precisely the same footing; but if that duty were imposed on the Commissioners they would be involved in very difficult questions... and he could assure the Honorable M.P. for Liskeard (Mr Courtney) who perhaps knew less of public opinion in Ireland than he did, that there was no desire in that country to spend money in order to give exactly the same class of education to girls as to boys.

House divided for the vote:

Ayes: 123
Noes: 32
Majority: 91

Bill read third time and passed with Amendments.

Royal Assent August 16 (41 and 42 Victoria c.66).

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  1. What deputation of ladies do you think was Mr O'Shaughnessy referring to?
  2. Identify the two main concessions for girls in this Bill which Mr O'Shaughnessy wanted from the British government.
  3. What were the arguments used by the English M.P. Mr Stansfield (Halifax) in favour of girls being included in the Irish Intermediate Bill.
  4. Which of these arguments would have been most likely to sway his fellow members in the House of Commons?
  5. Identify any statement in this document which suggests that Mr Stansfield was not fully aware of the realities of girls' education in Ireland.
  6. Give as many reasons as you can why Isaac Butt (leader of the Home Rule Party) was against the inclusion of girls in the Irish Intermediate Education Bill.
  7. Comment on Mr Meldon's main objection to the inclusion of girls: do you think this was a valid argument? Explain your answer with reference to other documentary sources.
  8. Who provided all these 'good schools' for girls mentioned by Mr Meldon?
  9. Why do you think was Mr O'Shaughnessy at pains to point out that the inclusion of girls in the Intermediate Bill was not a matter of women's rights?
  10. Compare and contrast Mr O'Shaughnessy's views on this question with those expressed by the other Irish MPs.
  11. Identify one particular point of agreement among all the Irish M.P.s in relation to this Bill. What particular problems did they see might arise in relation to this issue?
  12. Compare Mr Butt's second statement with his previous arguments against the inclusion of girls. Examine the new points which he has introduced at this late stage.
  13. Research Butt's role as leader of the Home Rule Party, 1870-1879.
  14. Role play this debate on the Intermediate Bill.

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