Saturday, December 28, 2013

JADG - Womanly Skills

It's the last category for the Jane Austen Drinking Game - Womanly Skills! As I have covered those topics before, I will offer up Minerva and Dolly's passion for geography.

When I was in 5th grade, about 10 years old, my social studies teacher had us draw freehand maps, which I loved doing. With all the lines of latitude and longitude in place, I would draw in the boundaries, and then with colored pencils, fill in all the rivers, mountains, and other landmarks, cities and roads, and then make a beautiful legend and compass rose. I wish I had kept my map of New England. It was the best in the class.

Much more recently, I found that this exercise was the foundation for geography education in the 19th century. It utilized art and penmanship skills while the student learned geography. I am amazed that these are usually in bound school notebooks, meaning the student did not make mistakes and have to tear out any page. There is a wonderful assortment of what are referred to as "schoolgirl maps", the surviving work of students from the early 1800s. Boys did this exercise as well, but as is common, the females tended to keep their school notebooks tucked away in a trunk or attic, and pass them on to descendants. Frances Henshaw's notebook is especially beautiful. I took a copy of her map of Vermont and pasted it in the inside of a student desk I refinished a few years ago.

Here, Dolly and Minerva are updating their maps, due to recent explorations of the American west by Lewis and Clark.

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