Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mastering the Art of Ladyhood: The Education of Ellen Robillard

“From the day when Ellen first came to Tara, the place had been transformed.  If she was only fifteen years old, she was nevertheless ready for the responsibilities of the mistress of a plantation.  Before marriage, young girls must be, above all other things, sweet, gentle, beautiful and ornamental, but, after marriage, they were expected to manage households that numbered a hundred people or more, white and black, and they were trained with that in view.

"Ellen had been given this preparation for marriage which any well-brought-up young lady received, and she also had Mammy… She quickly brought order, dignity and grace into Gerald's household, and she gave Tara a beauty it had never had before.”
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter III

Gone with the Wind presents Ellen Robillard O’Hara as many things—a vivacious young belle, a melancholic woman doomed by a star-crossed love affair, Scarlett’s childhood idol, the embodiment of Southern ladyhood. We know Ellen’s sedate reign at Tara transformed Scarlett’s girlhood home into one imbued with “order, dignity, and grace” as MM describes in the passage above. But exactly what kind of schooling did young aristocratic women like Ellen receive towards achieving this end?

Before we move forward with answering that question, let’s quickly reacquaint ourselves with Ellen Robillard O’Hara’s vital stats. These clues will prove important in deciphering what kind of education a young lady like Ellen would have received. From her age (32) at the start of GWTW, we know that Ellen was born in 1829, the child of a coastal aristocratic family of French descent. She was raised in Savannah, Georgia, of course, but her mother’s family lived in and then fled Haiti during the revolution of 1791. Ellen grew up reared in the ways of the Southern elite, became a charming belle, and then married Gerald O’Hara at the tender age of 15.

Why is this all important? Several reasons. First and most importantly, women’s education in the antebellum South has traditionally received rather light attention from historians, meaning some level of detective work is involved in writing a post like this one. Secondly, American education in the early 19th century was in a constant state of flux. There were many different formats of schooling available and advances in education tended to blur into one another. So Ellen’s background is the very best evidence we have to examine what her formal education might have looked like.

Before we begin, some quick notes on sources: Much of my research for this post comes from a tremendous book called The Education of the Southern Belle: Higher Education and Student Socialization in the Antebellum South by Christine Anne Farnham. This book is also rounded out by a memoir of an antebellum girl of Ellen’s generation: Social Life in Old New Orleans, Being Recollections of my Girlhood by Eliza Moore Chinn McHatten Ripley. Eliza Ripley was born in 1832, making her three years younger than the lovely but fictitious Ellen Robillard. She also grew up in very similar societal context--planter class, living prominent Southern city with French influence. 

Fair warning: there's a lot of information to take in here, so I'm going to try to break it down as much as possible. First up is a brief overview of women's education in the South from the late colonial era through the early antebellum period.  Using this, we'll then move on to examining in greater detail what kinds of things a lady of Ellen's social stature would have learned in school.  

An Overview of Women's Education in the South 

By the mid 1700s, French schools started to became a means for girls' education in the South. These schools were largely concentrated in bigger coastal cities and operated by unmarried women, widows, or husband-and-wife teacher teams. As the name suggests, instruction in French was a core part of the curriculum, along with writing, reading, arithmetic, and needlework.  Instruction in the ornamental arts (dancing, music, drawing, and handicrafts) was an essential focus as well. Evidence indicates that French schools were likely more prominent in the South than the North. 

Why? First, Southern society was aristocratic in nature and, as such, sought to model itself upon European nobility and manners. Knowledge of French was considered to be an barometer of upper-class status. But the predominance of French schools was also likely a matter of mere geography. The South was a stone’s throw from the Caribbean—and many native French speakers originated from the Caribbean, particularly as immigrants fleeing the Haitian Revolution.   

French schools varied from small day schools to posh boarding schools with a number of additional academic subjects, such as history, philosophy, and geography. French schools were popular among the Southern elite, as they served two essential functions.  First, the schools afforded young belles the opportunity to cultivate "refinement" and master womanly arts such as needlework, French, and proper etiquette. But just as importantly, French schools offered girls the chance to mingle amongst the proper social set and thus expand their horizons for their true calling--marriage.  Because education, as we will soon see,  was largely designed towards this end, emphasizing the veneer of learning over, well, actual learning. 

But there's one more advancement in women's education that we need to note before moving on our subject list. And that is academies. Academies for girls began to appear in the late 1700s and gradually supplanted the earlier French schools throughout the South. But this transition was a slow one and the difference in educational offerings  between French schools and academies tends to be hazy. But one key distinction exists:  unlike French schools, academies emphasized academic subjects over the decorative arts (music, dancing, painting, needlework, etc.), minimizing these courses to elective offerings. 

Still with me? There's extra credit for all those pupils who follow me after the jump...that and a full curriculum of ladylike subjects a well-bred young girl like Ellen Robillard would have studied in school.

A Lady's Curriculum

Now it's time for our in-depth look at the curriculum of a proper Southern lady. Secondary education for women typically culminated at 15; studies past that point were considered advanced/pre-collegiate work. So getting married at 15 didn't deprive Ellen of an education--for all extensive purposes, she had learned everything that a proper Southern woman was supposed to know, including...

French The study of French was simply de rigueur for a girl of Ellen's aristocratic background, especially given her family's French ancestry. So there's not much more that needs to be said about this particular subject--Ellen Robillard would have known her French, if not from babyhood, from her schooling. 

The Three R's  Then, like now, reading, writing, and arithmetic were fundamental subjects. The most commonly studied works of literature were Shakespeare's historical plays and Milton's Paradise Lost. Unfortunately, literary offerings were also frequently tailored (read: simplified) to the appeal to the female audience. The novels of Maria Edgeworth and Sir Walter Scott were popular selections in this vein, as they stressed values important to the Southern mindset: Edgeworth emphasized the woman's role in the home, while Scott focused on chivalry. 

Girls were also required to write regular compositions. Assigned topics often included admirable female values such as gentleness or benevolence or flowery subjects like "the beauty of the rainbow" or "evidences of the goodness of God" (honest-to-goodness essay topics from a school girl attending Chatham Academy in Savannah, Georgia, brought to you courtesy of The Education of the Southern Belle).  

Arithmetic study covered the basics--addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions, basic geometry, and money measurement. Charles Davies' Arithmetic was one of the most frequently used textbooks. The 1841 edition that could have very well served as Ellen's own math book is available here, if you'd like to check it out.  

Needlework  In Chapter III, Gone with the Wind records that Ellen never sat down without "without a bit of needlework in her hands, except at mealtime, while attending the sick or while working at the bookkeeping of the plantation." She favored "fancy embroidery" if company was present and mending work among the family. All signs that she, like most well-bred Southern women, received a thorough training in the art of needlework--no surprise given both French schools and academies focused on the skill.

Fancy Penmanship Today penmanship is considered a lost art. Not so in Ellen Robillard's day. Correspondence was a vitally important social tool. News and gossip traveled via the pen. Letters sparked and sustained courtships, friendships, and business deals. So writing in an elegant hand was simply a must for a girl living in polite society. Girls were often expected to learn multiple writing styles. In the Education of the Southern Belle, Farnham describes one girls' school in North Carolina that taught a dizzying array of writing styles: "genteel, ornamental, round, inverse, Italian single flowery, double flowery, and business." Phew... that's a lot of penmanship to learn!

Music  Eliza Ripley best sums up the central role musical pursuits played in a lady's education in Social Life in Old New Orleans, Being Recollections of my Girlhood"Everybody was musical; every girl had music lessons and every mother superintended the study and practice of the one branch deemed absolutely indispensable to the education of a demoiselle." Musical training was tied to the Southern lady's role as hostess--as mistress of a grand household, she needed to know a pleasing selection of musical pieces to entertain her guests. Instruction on the piano, harp, and/or guitar was common, with ladies mastering the popular tunes of the day along with polkas and waltzes for dancing. Which brings us to our last subject...

Dancing and Deportment Above nearly all else, a lady needed to be graceful in both manner and appearance. To this end, dancing and deportment were highly important skills. I'll let Miss Ripley take it away once more to describe one lesson in dancing and deportment from her teacher, Mr. Devoti: 
"Another important branch of deportment was to seat the awkwards stiffly on the extreme edge of a chair, fold the hands on the very precarious lap, droop the eyes in a pensive way. Then Devoti would flourish up and present, with an astonishing salaam, a book from the center table. The young miss was instructed how to rise, bow and receive the book, in the most affected and mechanical style. Another exercise was to curtsey, accept old Devoti's arm and majestically parade round and round the center table. The violin emerged from the baize bag, Devoti made it screech a few notes while the trio balanced up and down, changed partners and promenaded, till the awkwards were completely bewildered and tired out. He then replaced the violin, made a profound bow to extended skirts and curtseys, admonished the pupils to practice for next lesson, and vanished."
--Social Life in Old New Orleans, Being Recollections of my Girlhood, Eliza Moore Chinn McHatten Ripley
Thus ends our exhaustive look at Ellen Robillard's likely education. In the near future, we'll be bringing you a follow-up post on--you guessed it!--Scarlett's own education, specifically what day-to-day life would have been like at academies  similar to Scarlett's own alma mater, the Fayetteville Female Academy. Till then we leave you with some poignant parting words from our New Orleans belle, Eliza Ripley, on the nature of educational offerings for girls in the antebellum period:
"Is it any surprise that the miscellaneous education we girls of seventy years ago in New Orleans had access to, culminated by fitting us for housewives and mothers, instead of writers and platform speakers, doctors and lawyers—suffragettes?"
To me at least, this is an apt observation (if I may quote Rhett Butler). Being a lady was challenging and restrictive work. No wonder Scarlett found it so difficult! What do y'all think? 


  1. Great entry, Iso! The societal attitudes toward education for women in that era make me profoundly grateful to have been born in the 20th century!

    I followed the link to the Farnham book on Amazon, and what was available for preview there was very interesting. The topic actually made me think of Melanie, rather than Ellen or Scarlett. Melanie was well-read, as well as well-bred, and presumably took her education more seriously than Scarlett did. After checking out the table of contents, introduction and epilogue of the Farnham book, I formulated 2 questions: 1) Might Melanie have attended the Georgia Female College in Macon, later known as the Wesleyan Female College? 2) Might the topic of chapter 7 in Farnham's book, Lovers: Romantic Friendships, partially explain Melanie's feelings of unconditional love for Scarlett, and blindness to her faults? Of course, there are additional reasons for Melanie's abiding affection for Scarlett, but that chapter title struck me. True, they were sisters-in-law, but would Melanie have felt this strongly about Honey had she married Charles instead? I wasn't able to access the content of that chapter, so I don't know just how this affection was expressed. On other discussion boards Melanie's character is considered too good to be credible, a real Pollyanna, and this would add a more human dimension to her.

    Above is the link to the history of Wesleyan College, first college in the country for women. The Wilkes and Hamiltons had cousins in Macon. That's where Pittypat, India, and Honey sought refuge during Sherman's march through Georgia.

  2. I would have flunked everything but the French lessons...Lol. Very detail orientated and good article! Bravo.

  3. @Iris- Thanks! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. To answer your first question- it's of course just speculation because GWTW provides so few clues but, yes, Melanie could have attended Georgia Female College/Wesleyan Female College in Macon. Many academies had pre-collegiate tracts to prepare girls for entrance into 'formal' colleges like Wesleyan. Farnham indicates that some of the "better" women's colleges started accepting students as early as 14-15. We know Melly gets engaged to Ashley at 17, so she certainly would have had time for some form of post-secondary education before that. In regards to your second question, it's a fascinating thought but I'll have to get back to you on it. Let me take a closer look at Chapter 7 and see what I can report.

    @Linus1970- Thanks for reading! I would have flunked the French lessons for sure, so you have one up on me! :) Unlike my co-blogger, I'm atrocious at learning languages.

  4. What a great post! We haven't touched upon Ellen too much around here and she's such an interesting character. I (clearly) have a bit of a Scarlett obsession, so it was like a breath of fresh air to delve into Ellen's past, which recieves fairly limited attention in the novel.
    I really appreciated this post and it filled certain gaps in my mind. I can hardly imagine having to master several different styles of handwriting, I had enough trouble with one. As a journalist a quick hand is more important than a neat hand, so my handwriting is barely legible!
    I can really understand teaching needlework in school. In reference to an earlier discussion about the O'Hara girls' clothes being home made, I think the fact that most girls had been studying it throughout their education is an indication that this is the case. Remember they didn't have television, so most of their evening were spent in that way. A particular moment from the nove that I love is the night of the Shantytown raid, when Scarlett pricks her finger with the needle. With a scream of pain and annoyance, she squeezes it until blood appears.
    Yes, Ellen does have a lot of personas, doesn't she? I understand Scarlett's feelings, when she realises Ellen actually wasn't the best mother. I think she was a bit emotionally retarded. I would like to know what was going on in her head though.

  5. Oh, another thought - I wonder about Scarlett's knowledge of French. Surely she must've had some knowledge, especially since her mother was French. And as a language student and teacher myself, I find that learning language is quite mathematical in a sense. Scarlett was an adept mathematician and may have done well. I don't believe the novel ever mentions her knowledge of French, simply that Rue de la Paix meant nothing to Scarlett (which would make your Ru de la Paix posts a bit redundant as Scarlett wouldn't know what you're going on about!)

  6. Hmm...I think you are right in one sense. Scarlett likely would have been taught French at school--after all, it was a core subject and considered an important part of a lady's education, even in rural areas like the County. But there's a difference too between being taught something and truly learning it. I can't see Scarlett having any true proficiency in French, or any other language, for that matter. Learning a language requires a lot of patience, and patience is definitely not Scarlett's strong suit. Neither is an kind of interest in academic work.

    Also, we know that math is "the one subject that had come easy to Scarlett in her schooldays." So if French was on the agenda at her school, it wasn't something she mastered. Instead, I imagine her taking French, being bored with it, but still knowing a phrase here and there.

  7. Well, to add my two cents, I think that Scarlett could have definitely been good at grammar, because as you say, it is mathematical in a sense and easy to learn, but I don't really see her having a rich vocabulary or being able to easily apply any grammar knowledge she might have had in conversation. Bridging the gap between abstract knowledge of the language and being able to actually use it fluently does require some effort, patience, interest etc and I don't think Scarlett had them to any degree. It's completely possible for her to only learn enough French to get her through school, but not actually be able to use any of it outside of school.

  8. Thank you so much for this post. I love the history!

  9. Yes, both valid points. I think you are both right. Well, what about Scarlett's use of English? I feel that she was fairly articulate, even though she didn't have the widest vocabulary (excluding such words as collateral), but she did use words like mercenary. She may have been ignorant in matters of history and literature, but I do get the impression the girl was well spoken.

  10. She doesn't know the word "opportunist," but I would argue that was a bit of an exaggeration on Mitchell's part. I think that Scarlett had a normal vocabulary.

    I do think she would have had problems with spelling, though. We are not told directly, but I think we can infer from how other people around her write. Suellen's letter was full of spelling mistakes, but let's say this was only due to her anger. But I think that at one point we are told about the Tarleton kids, both the boys and (with Scarlett's remark about Randa) the girls, that they are not good at spelling and there is little reason Scarlett would have been better than they were in this aspect, since she didn't love school either and had never willingly opened a book.

  11. Hmmm, Bugsie I reckon the fact that Scarlett noted that Suellen's letter was mispelled and that not a one of the Tarleton's could spell cat, would be an indication that she noted these things and was able to spell things correctly. I think that Scarlett would've had trouble on the long words (like everyone), but spelling, like learning grammar, is kind of mathematical, so I'm not sure.
    You're right, you don't have to be a genius to work out what an opportunist is. Surely she knew the word opportunity. The Hindu settee, I feel, can be forgiven.
    As we learned from this post, correspondence was of huge importance in daily life, and though she didn't read novels, she would've read and written letters regularly.
    I think the fact Scarlett notes that Suellen is a poor correspondant, only interested in receiving letters and not writing them, might mean that Scarlett is actually an alright correspondant.
    What do you think?

  12. Well, you have a series of points. I thought about the fact that Scarlett seems to notice these things about Suellen, so she might not be so bad herself. I was thinking there was no reason for her to have a good spelling given how she wasn't into reading (and I think she only wrote the minimum necessary when it came to letters), but if you look at it as a mathematical skill, then yes, I think she could learn that. I will give Scarlett a pass then. (That is actually very good, for I didn't like to think of her writing misspelled letters to Charles...or Rhett.)

    As for the point you make about her vocabulary, I think the fact she didn't know about the Hindu custom was more an indication of her lack of culture in general. Like the Borgia or the Gotterdammerung thing. It seems an exaggeration to us today, but at the time this custom was famous, had made it to the newspapers too, so Rhett probably expected her to know what he was talking about.

  13. Iris- I'm back with an answer for your regarding your question about romantic friendships. Here's essentially what Farnham lays out: in the world of girls' schools, it was both common and accepted for girls to pair off into twos and develop very close, very intensely emotional friendships.

    Because the Victorians idolized love in all forms, these friendships employed some of the tropes of love and even courtship. So girls make statements such as "I love her...she is my love" to refer to their best friend. It was also very common for girls to pick bouquets for each other and present them to those they admired as a tokens of exclusive friendship. (The Victorians were really in to flower meanings, so the bouquets were part of this trend.) Now because we are talking about young teenage girls who can be mercurial and catty, many of these close friendships fizzled out after a while. It was common for a girl to go through several best friends in the span of her schooling.

    Parents didn't view friendships like this as a threat to romantic courtship--rather, in some ways they were considered helpful, as they allowed girls to socialize, to share confidences, and to develop a stronger sense of self. Some girls even used the friendship model as practice for belle-dom, attracting a string of female friends through flattery and charm much like they would do with beaux.

    So how does Melanie fit into a world like this? I think you're correct when you say it could partially explain Melanie's feelings of unconditional love for Scarlett and blindness to her faults. Girls were socialized in school settings to take up close friendships that bordered on pure admiration. Perhaps Melanie, as a timid, shy person, never got to engage in a close friendship in school and thus saw in Scarlett someone she admired--and someone who could fill this void in her life.

  14. OMG, I got an error message as well! I sure hope they didn't take it down. I have a copy on my PC, but it was so easy to just search online. This sucks.

  15. Iso, thank you for this insight. LOL, mercurial and catty girls... like a certain belle who never had close female friends, perhaps? I don't know if I'm recalling correctly, or if this was the impression from the movie, but didn't Melanie say that she admired Scarlett's high spirits and beauty after seeing her at a Christmas party in December of 1860 (the same party at which Charlie first took notice of Scarlett)? Melanie was also always touching Scarlett in ways that irritated or annoyed her. The overall impression is that Melanie had a sort of girl crush on Scarlett. Over time Melanie had more substantive reasons to value Scarlett's "friendship." I think it gives us another perspective on Scarlett's charm and charismatic presence. The other girls, like Honey and the Tarleton sisters merely thought Scarlett was fast, but shy Melanie, as you say, admired her for her social skills and beauty, the qualities Melanie lacked.

    As for the college education, I suppose if Melanie had attended college, MM would have made a point of stating it. It would set her apart from the other young women of Atlanta. Given all of her qualities, it seemed possible. Perhaps, Melanie's predilection for literature, and other cultural pursuits is partly the difference between her upbringing in the city compared to Scarlett's country roots. As MM wrote in the first chapter of Scarlett and the Tarleton twins: "They had the vigor and alertness of country people who have spent all their lives in the open and troubled their heads very little with dull things in books. in north Georgia, a lack of the niceties of classical education carried no shame, provided a man was smart in the things that mattered."

  16. Yes, I remember the reference too, but I don't think Scarlett was included. I think it said that Brent and Stuart had bad grammar, but don't quote me.
    Melanie remarks upon Belle Whatling's grammar to Scarlett. And I believe Melanie and Scarlett talk about Will's lack of grammar. Just a couple more references...
    As for mispelled letters Bugsie, wouldn't you just kill to know what Suellen wrote? Scarlett said she would never forgive her for it - abusive and violent I believe is the description.

  17. I love that on the list of things that matter, being able to hold one's liquor like a gentleman, is included!
    I've been meaning to comment about the topic you brought up for a couple of days now Iris, I've been trying to collect my thoughts.
    Iso, good job with the explanation of romantic friendships. I'm not sure that Melly wouldn't have had close girl friends. She was very popular and liked by the whole town. And we get to observe a conversation (after nap time on the day of the fateful barbecue) between a number of young girls, and Melanie clearly isn't on the outside. It was the boys she wasn't popular with - Hugh Elsing was the only other beau she ever had.
    We are told that Melly could always see the best in people, beauty in ugly girls, men for their potential etc. So obviously somebody like Scarlett with her beauty and charm and charisma and strength, she would only see those positive aspects. If Honey had married Charles I don't think the relationship would've mirrored hers with Scarlett, because Honey wasn't a particularly likeable character. It was widely held across the county that she was a scatterbrained flirt and Charles himself thought she wasn't much of a credit to him.
    I think that the moment Scarlett married Charles Melanie started to think of her exactly like a sister. And yes, I do think she had a bit of a girl crush. How many of those young girls ended up lesbians do you think?
    And here's a controversial thought, and I'm not saying it's what I think, but has it ever occurred to anyone out there in GWTW la la land that Scarlett might, in actual fact, be a lesbian? Think about it...

  18. This essay, Striking Chords and Touching Nerves: Myth and Gender in Gone with the Wind, is one of the best I've read. It actually touches on the topic of Scarlett's sexuality. Enjoy!

  19. Well, abusive and violent maybe, but I think what really stung Scarlett was the fact that it included a lot of truths as well. We should have a "Write like Suellen O'Hara" competition and reconstruct that letter! :P

  20. I think in Melanie's case, this came with the family she was born into. The Wilkes-Hamilton clan is described as being unusually bookish. She was different not only from Scarlett and the other country belles, but probably from most women her age. When Scarlett strains her ear to catch the conversation between Ashley and Melanie at the barbecue, Melanie was just expressing a quite firm opinion on literature (Thackeray vs. Dickens, or something). This was not literature being employed just for light, decorative conversation, all with the higher aim of catching a man. Melanie seems to take it seriously. (Even if defending her rosy world view against Mr. Thackeray's cynicism seems in line with a classic feminine stance.)

    It does make me wonder, though, about India and what topics of conversation she possibly could have with Stuart.

  21. "You're a fool, Rhett Butler, when you know I shall always love another woman."

    I knew there will always be something new to look forward to in this fandom. And right now, that's the badass Scarlett/India pairing. Brb, rewriting the mill incident :P


    "After Rhett Butler made love to Ashley Wilkes, he lit a cigarette and said, 'Ashley, did I ever tell you my grandmother was black?'" Pat Conroy, in response to the Mitchell Estate Trustees' request that his sequel contain no homosexuality or miscegenation (and sadly, that is why there was no sequel written by Pat Conroy).

  23. Looks like Bugsie and Iris have covered the waterfront sufficiently re: Scarlett's sexuality. :P So I'll just answer your other question, aka how many of those young girls ended up lesbians.

    The answer is very few that scholars can actually confirm. This was largely due to the different socio-economic hierarchies in the South vs. the North. In the North, teaching was considered a respectable profession for middle class women. And teaching provided women with an alternate means of livelihood outside of the traditional path of marriage--meaning that women who were so inclined could make their own money and live together. As a result, we see "Boston marriages" spring up in some teaching communities.

    In the South, the only acceptable roles for a middle to upper class woman were marriage or spinsterhood. Women worked outside of the home only in cases of hardship. So because women lacked the ability to support themselves outside of the confines of marriage (or familial largess, in the case of spinsters), a similar lesbian subculture did not take root in the South. As a result, there are few publicly known cases of lesbianism. Of course "publicly known" doesn't equal the full and total truth, but it's the only measure we have to gauge history by in this case.

  24. "Mr. Butler, this is not what you think! I was hugging her as a friend. I swear, I am not even into Scarlett at all! I am hopelessly, breathlessly smitten with you. Oh look, your wife just fainted."

    *Bridget Jones mode off*

    As for the Mitchell estate, it must be hard for them, living in the Middle Ages and all.

  25. Yes, they certainly did have a fun time with that idea! I honestly wonder what Margaret Mitchell would think of a sequel in which Scarlett and India ended up lovers! My God! I actually think she would love it. I don't think Peggy was very conservative - I think she felt herself a 1910/20s version of Scarlett.
    Yeah Iso, I was more meaning lesbian in the sense that theses girls would marry men and as she lay there while he was doing his business she'd be thinking "Gee, I miss the gentle caressess of my girlfriend and those couple of times we drank too much wine and explored our sexuality."
    I'm sure there were lots of men in the same boat. As far as I'm concerned, the percentage of gay people hasn't ever changed - just more admit to it these days.

  26. Loved this! And as much as I loved the post because I'm a sucker for history information without having to search for it myself, I especially enjoyed reading all of these comments. Those R/A and S/I scenarios had me dying of laughter. Thank you :)

  27. How was a person like Ellen taught to manage a large plantation?

  28. Well, this is a very interesting question and one that perhaps we'll explore at some point. My thought (and iso's) is that they learned this at home, from their mothers, not necessarily at school.

  29. Ah, but don't forget Rhett told her to stop reading newspapers because they addled women's brains! LOL.

    As for Scarlett, I think she was reasonably intelligent, but she didn't see the need to apply herself academically--and that's a commentary on society back then. Scarlett quickly figured out it was more important to be skilled in the arts of flirting and dancing and coquetry than risk being labeled a bluestocking. I think Scarlett had an adequate vocabulary and decent spelling/grammar skills since, as others have suggested, Scarlett was quick to point out the mistakes of Suellen and the Tarleton kids.

    Although, I remember from the book a line in the very beginning about how Scarlett and her friends sometimes used poor grammar. I was going to quote it, but--GASP--got an error message from gutenberg. They may have taken down the text again.


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