This week, we continue this series on young ladies by comparing the social and educational differences between privileged, wealthy young ladies and young working women.
Distance and the difficulty of travelling over rough, sammell roads by pony trap or bike had the same inhibiting effect on the leisure activities of nearly all young women living in Westmorland villages and hamlets, whether they came from working homes or land-owning families eighty years ago.
For most young people, entertainment was home-made or non-existent; young ladies in the bigger houses might enjoy attending a dance or bridge party, but an invitation to a tennis party might have to be refused if the venue was too far to reach by bicycle.
Working girls often did little more than go to church to escape home - there was very little else by way of diversion. There were sixpenny hops and subscription dances in the bigger villages, and small family concert parties and whist drives, but life before motor transport and a regular bus service was as limited for young ladies as young working girls.
Education, however, for the two groups was very different; all working families sent their daughters to the village school. Exceptionally clever sons might be sent away to school or be allowed to try for a grammar school place, but for most girls the first job began on leaving school at fourteen.
Young ladies of private means, however, did not attend school locally. After Nanny came the Governess, and eventually boarding school:
"I think I was 13 or 14... we had to travel to Suffolk, it took us all day. Only once in our school career did Mother come down to see us. You know we really went! I hated every minute of school because I wasn't able to do what I wanted when I wanted. I'm that kind, but my sister loved it...I don't think there was any question that people in our walk of life, if you like to call it such, they all went to boarding school. Day schools weren't established in the same way, there were Grammar Schools but they were, I think I am right in saying, they would be more for the working class who were working they way up, could I put it that way?"
Not all young ladies disliked the idea of boarding school; for one girl, stuck at home with boring tutors, boarding school seemed very attractive:
"Mother decided the school wasn't very satisfactory so after a year she took us away and had me at home with a governess and the boy went on to boarding school and then was joined by his younger brother later on. And so I had a governess at home - well, I had several governesses and I didn't enjoy them at all, I hated it, I wanted to go to school really. Mother was rather kinder and had been brought up by a governess herself and didn't think of anything else for daughters, they should be educated at home ...however eventually I did go to school in London for about a year to be finished off, as they say, and I enjoyed that very much because we used to be taken to concerts and galleries and museums and lots of interesting things like Wimbledon. But we came out with no qualifications, none at all. I mean it wasn't the sort of school that provided you with anything except how to get into Claridges or something!"
Oddly enough, the demands of social convention could be far more irksome for a young woman in a working family than for her more unconventional, even outrageous sister from a well-to-do background. Working families always risked the disapproval of their "betters"; and the sort of criticism meted out to a working girl who donned knickerbockers and nailed boots to climb crags could only be imagined.But for a young lady brought up by unconventional parents, rock-climbing was second nature:
"We just walked and we climbed..there were plenty of trees in the wood at the back of our house and we just climbed; my cousins, Ashley Abraham's son, particularly the eldest one, we just climbed for the sheer joy of it and naturally set each other impossible things to do, supposedly, but nobody ever got much hurt or fell off or anything like that."
Encouraged by her father in a climbing family, the girl progressed from trees to boulders:
"If we were out for a walk on the fells and saw some likely looking boulder, father would say, 'Go on, get up it', you see; but the time I started climbing on Castle Head I imagine I must have been about ten or eleven. I was never frightened."
Despite a young lady being brought up in such an unconventional way, it never dawned on her for years that her childhood was anything unusual:
"My father wore what we used to call plus-two knickerbockers, and stout, stout stockings. Very thick stockings, and my father would never part, summer or winter, with a woollen shirt but he never felt the cold. He never wore an overcoat until he was about 85, and then under protest. He never felt the cold, which really was rather a drawback for a girl going along with him. I froze, literally, once! I fell in a beck and froze and had to walk home tinkling. Oh dear, it was all such fun! I never thought till recent years my life was any different from anyone else in that sense."
Courting behaviour was one aspect of life in which the conventions were very similar for the working girl and the young lady. Holding hands was one thing - but kissing one's beau before an engagement had been announced was frowned upon by parents from every strata of society. Even a mill girl with a smudge on her cheek faced fierce parental retribution:
"I had a boyfriend who worked on the railway and he was learning to be a fireman and he used to work through till ten, and I used to go and meet him at suppertime, and of course I suppose we'd be kissing and my face would be dirty, so I'd get a good hiding when I got home!"