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Object of the Month: Photograph of Palmer Senior Girls' School

Photograph of Palmer Senior Girls’ School, 1934 (object no. REDMG: 2016.64.15)

Photograph of Palmer Senior Girls’ School, 1934 (object no. REDMG: 2016.64.15)

Now September is here, this means two things: Back to School and Great British Bake Off! This month’s object is a photograph of Palmer Senior Girls’ School showing girls in a cookery lesson. This photograph was taken by a Reading Chronicle photographer and was part of a series of photographs entitled ‘A Pictorial Survey of Reading School, 1934.’

Miss M.J. Cottrell was headmistress of the Palmer Senior Girls’ School from 1930 until April 1938, with Miss Lawrence replacing her from 1 May 1938 to 31 August 1947. Miss Cottrell would have been headmistress when this photo was taken. One girl who was a pupil between 1937 and 1940 remembered the change of headmistress in 1938, even recalling that Miss Cottrell was given a sun lounger for the garden as a leaving present! Another pupil remembers being taught Cookery and Laundry by Miss Cottrell.

Opinions of a woman’s role in life were a lot different in the 1930s to what they are now. Very few women worked after they were married, instead staying at home to raise the children and maintain the house. Schools prepared girls for this life: lessons were given in cookery, household management, darning, sewing and even how to iron a shirt properly. Girls, like those in the photograph, were trained to look after their husband, their children and the house. Now both sexes can learn about cookery, as part of their Design and Technology GCSE.

As the children go back to school with their smart uniforms and new pencil cases, it is interesting to remember past Reading pupils and what school was like for them. Perhaps while relaxing with a cup of tea, watching Great British Bake Off!

(September’s Object of the Month by Laura Marshall, Reading Abbey intern)

Date updated: 14 Sep 2016


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