As we commemorate 50 years since Churchill College first educated female students, it’s timely that our Lead Admissions Tutor, Dr Jonathan Padley, has contributed to a new book, Women’s Literary Education, 1690-1850.

The book explores the nuances of women’s literary contributions to strands of educational thinking throughout the long eighteenth century. At this time, authors of literary texts often wrote educational treatises too, and saw the two as connected. The complex dynamics between teacher/author and pupil/reader reflect contemporary debates around authority and freedom, as well as gender, race, religion, age, and class.

Dr Padley’s chapter explores the role of Sarah Trimmer and her attitudes towards education and imagination.  An avid philanthropist, Trimmer founded several charity and Sunday schools, and wrote diverse parenting and school textbooks and instructional manuals. 

Trimmer’s work also included the first instances of literary criticism, as applied to material for children. She wrote an influential children’s literature story, Fabulous Histories, which is the subject of Dr Padley’s examination.

Women’s Literary Education, 1690-1850 is co-edited by Louise Joy, a Fellow, Director of Studies, and College Associate Professor in English at Homerton College, University of Cambridge. The second co-editor is Jessica Lim, who was previously Director of Studies in English at Lucy Cavendish College. The book is available to buy online from Edinburgh University Press.