Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

Fathers and Daughters; Copenhagen's Dottreskolen of 1791

Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

Fathers and Daughters; Copenhagen's Dottreskolen of 1791

Article excerpt

ANGRY PARENTS of daughters at Copenhagen's Dottreskolen (The Daughters School, also known as Tode's School) called a meeting for Thursday, July 28, 1791, at 5:30 in the afternoon, to discuss their worries about the direction which they felt the school was taking. Eighteen parents (including one mother) agreed to send an ultimatum to the school's board of directors, giving them nineteen days in which to respond to the parents' concerns or their children would be withdrawn. The board brushed aside the parents' threat, claimed that there were pressing financial difficulties and suggested that the parents forward recommendations for the board's consideration. The parents responded with scarcely concealed anger calling the board members liars. The parents noted in a letter of August 27, 1791, that "Tonen i bemeldte Pro Memoria er saa gandske forskiellig fra Directionens mundtlige Erklaering, . . . saa er . . . Pro Memoria at betragte, som et Kunst-Stykke" (the tone in the Pro Memoria is so completely different from the Directors' oral explanations . . . that . . . the Pro Memoria must be viewed as an artifice). If there were indeed financial difficulties, the parents wondered why board members had not mentioned them before.(1)

The parents had several concerns. Heading the list was their claim that the school was now being run as a profit-making venture. This resulted in economies on educational matters and precluded such considerations as getting the best teachers. The parents claimed that the school had originally been established as a non-profit institution, and they wished it to continue as such.(2)

There were also considerable parental misgivings that the school's directors were not really interested in the school. This disinterest manifested itself in several ways, according to the indignant parents. Directors scarcely bothered to visit the school; indeed, one director had not been to the school for the past six months. The school hired "uskikkede Laerere. Det er at beviise, at ingen af Directeurerne har egentlig bekymret sig om Institutet" (unqualified teachers. This is proof that none of the directors is really interested in the school). Further proving the directors' lack of interest was the fact that they were admitting unsuitable girls as students. "Der udi Institutet befandt sig saadanne Dottre hvis Omgang og Excempel kand befrygte de skraekkeligste Folger for vores Dottres Dyd" (There are some daughters at the institute from whose actions and examples the most terrible consequences to our daughters' virtues are to be feared). The parents did not explain this accusation further, but used it to bolster their claim of directorial indifference.(3)

What the parents found particularly shocking, however, was the fact that one of the directors had openly disapproved of advanced education for girls. The director "offentlig har yttret, at det ere en Skam for et Fruentimmer, naar hendes Kundskaber og Forstand med Geographie og Historie mere end saedvanlig bleve udvidede og dannede" (has publicly expressed his view that it is a shame for a woman when she has more than common knowledge of geography and history). Views such as these, parents feared, were not conducive to the development of a proper educational environment for their daughters.(4)

Receiving an unsatisfactory response from the board, on September 12, 1791, twenty-five parents agreed to establish a new school. They elected a committee to write a school plan which would be submitted to all the parents for their approval. The parents also chose their own directors to administer this new school, which opened on November 1, 1791, with thirty-six students. Although the school never formally adopted a name, it gradually became known as Dottreskolen af 1791. The remnants of Tode's original Dottreskole continued under the auspices of its headmistress, Madame Brandahl and was subsequently referred to as Brandahl's School.(5)

This article is the story of the parents--mostly, fathers--who organized and ran Dottreskolen for the benefit of their daughters. …

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