on 3 May 2011
Kathryn Hughes has produced a work sympathetic towards the Victorian governess without going overboard. Her book fully uses both paintings and the resources of the Mary Evans Picture Library to reveal the situation that many middle class women experienced throughout Victoria's reign : obliged to earn a living they were rejected and had no recognized status by the family within which they worked. Housemaids could be more conveniently accepted : they were simply skivvies, clearly working class.
The governess was condemned to a lonely, poorly rewarded life. She was as much one of society's rejects as was the 'fallen woman,' a favourite subject for Victorian moralists to thunder on about.