|Teachers were expected to know things. They were not expected to think, but they were certainly required to know. Everything was to be learned by heart: Joyce's Irish History, British Constitutional History, the Physical and Political Geography of the World, no less, Music, Drawing, Penmanship, Arithmetic and Mensuration, English, Reading, Poetry, Drama, Composition and Literature, Household Management and the ever-ghastly Needlework at which Mary was no better now than she had been as a child. One failed the whole King's Scholarship, a pre-requisite to training in Dublin ... if one failed in any one of the 'Failing Subjects' - English, Arithmetic, Music, Drawing, Needlework or the all-important Penmanship. Mary feared nothing but the Needlework.
Florence Mary McDowell, Roses to rainbows, Belfast, 1972, p. 89.
Mary always associated handwriting with Vere Foster (1820-1901) who was both an educationist and philanthropist, as well as a founder member of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO). In 1868 he began a revolution in the teaching of handwriting by designing the beautiful Vere Foster Copy Books and donating them to schools, as well as annual prizes worth £3,000 for the best copperplate handwriting.