Cornelia Connelly's Innovations in Female Education, 1846-1864: Revolutionizing the School Curriculum for Girls

Article excerpt

Cornelia Connelly's Innovations in Female Education, 1846-1864: Revolutionizing the School Curriculum for Girls. By Roseanne McDougall. (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press. 2008. Pp.xviii, 262. $109.95. ISBN 978-0-773-45187-2.)

Much has been written about Cornelia Connelly in recent years, and Roseanne McDougall has drawn from this body of scholarship to highlight some of the most important aspects of both the person and her context. The result is a deeper study of Connelly's philosophy of education in the light of her own spiritual vision, and her struggles and successes in the ecclesial and social circles of her day. McDougall deserves the gratitude of all of those interested in education in general and Catholic education in particular, since the "innovations" in Connelly's philosophy have much to say in the discussion around this topic today.

In the excellent foreword Sharon Latchaw Hirsh notes that in the light of Connelly's legacy of a "solid education . . . the most important contribution of this study must be its placement of such an education- ahead of its time and still worthy of study today- in proper historical context" (p. xiv).

McDougall sets about providing this proper historical context, charting the chronological sequence of Connelly's life as a brilliant educator and a deeply spiritual woman. The complex story of this early-nineteenth-century Philadelphian- born Cornelia Peacock, wife of Pierce Connelly, mother of five children, adult convert to Roman Catholicism, and later founder of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus- is told with clarity of detail and great sensitivity. The result is a tapestry woven from the social, religious, educational, geographical, and personal threads of Connelly's life.

The work consists of an introduction and five chapters followed by a detailed list of the sources consulted and a selected bibliography. …