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Hattie Townsend's drama Schooling Miss Martha, being performed in the  rooms of  Saltaire United Reformed Church on Sept. 9th & 10th (2.30pm) as part of the Festival, features the problems facing a 17-year-old girl struggling with her educational ambitions in the face of her parents' expectations for her future. Concerned that she should not take too much dramatic licence, Hattie (with help, would you believe, from Roger) made sure her facts were thoroughly researched: Opportunities were very limited in the 1870s for women of any class; although the more wealthy could buy educational advantage.
Locally, the Saltaire Institute Day School provided teaching of a very good standard: The school was regularly inspected and the curriculum and examinations were set by the Royal Academy in London.

But our mill girl's parents would not have had sufficient cash to fund this – nor would they have appreciated the need for it. Workers' children followed their parents into the Mill to become wage earners as soon as possible. The only two institutions which appear to have been running teacher training courses in 1877 were the non-denominational British and Foreign School Society (BFSS) and the National Society (for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church), both established around 1810. With a Nonconformist background, our mill girl would have opted for the former.

Helen Betteridge at Brunel University, which has the archive of BFSS, reckons she would have started out in the Factory School in the Village, where she would have been a "half timer" until she was about twelve (also working half time in the Mill) and then done a five year spell as a pupil-teacher from the age of thirteen. This was paid employment, under the supervision and instruction of the head teacher, and later the class teacher. She would then have sat a Queen's Scholarship Examination, which would have gained her a place at College. Once she got a College place, everything else was funded by the State. Five BFSS Training Colleges were open in 1877 and "Miss Martha" would most likely have gone to Darlington as a boarder.
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