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Finishing school

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A finishing school is a school for young women that focuses on teaching social graces and upper class cultural rites as a preparation for entry into society.[1][2][3] The name reflects that it follows on from ordinary school and is intended to complete the education, with classes primarily on deportment and etiquette[wp], with academic subjects secondary. It may consist of an intensive course, or a one-year programme. In the United States it is sometimes called a charm school.

Graeme Donald claims that the educational ladies' salons of the late 1800s led to the formal finishing institutions evidenced in Switzerland around that time.[4] At their peak, thousands of wealthy young women were sent to the dozens of finishing schools available.[5] A primary goal was to teach students to acquire husbands.[5]

The 1960s marked the decline of the finishing school.[5] This can be attributed to succession issues within the typically family-run schools and commercial pressures driven by the shifting conceptions of women's role in society and the high value of the properties the schools occupied.[5] The 1990s saw a revival of the finishing school, albeit the business model has been radically altered.[5]

In Switzerland

Switzerland was known for its private finishing schools. Most resided in the French-speaking cantons[wp] near Lake Geneva.[5] The country was favoured because of its reputation as a healthful environment, its multilinguality and cosmopolitan aura and the region's political stability.[5]

In the United States

Main in Wikipedia: Women's college

Through much of their history US finishing schools emphasized education in the social graces and de-emphasized scholarship: society encouraged a polished young lady to hide her intellectual prowess for fear of frightening away suitors.[6] For instance Miss Porter's School[wp] in 1843 advertised itself as Miss Porter's Finishing School for Young Ladies - even though its founder was a noted scholar offering a rigorous curriculum that educated the illustrious classicist Edith Hamilton[wp].[7] Today the situation has reversed: Miss Porter's School downplays its origins as a finishing school, and emphasizes the rigor of its academics.[8]

The term finishing school is occasionally used, or misused, in American parlance to refer to certain small women's colleges, primarily on the East Coast, known for preparing their female students for marriage.[9] Since the 1960s, many of these schools have closed as a result of financial difficulties stemming from changing societal norms making it easier for women to pursue academic and professional paths not open to previous generations.[10]


  1. Joan Perkin: Victorian Women, New York University Press, January 1, 1995, ISBN 0-8147-6625-0, p. 27-28
  2. finishing school, Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia
  3. finishing school, Merriam-Webster, Online Dictionary
  4. Graeme Donald: Lies, Damned Lies and History: a Catalogue of Historical Errors and Misunderstandings, The History Press 2009, p. 8
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Haig Simonian: Charm academy: Switzerland's last finishing school, Financial Times, Pearson
  6. Burlington Howard Ball|: Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel Warrior, Oxford University Press, USA, 1996, ISBN 0-19-536018-4, p. 20 - "[Hugo Black was] a traditional southern sexist male who believed...that women should not go out of their way to read the classics. Instead they should go to finishing school and prepare themselves for the rewarding, nurturing role of wife and mother...[H]e wanted [his daughter Jo Jo] to go to Sweet Briar College because, according to him, scholarship should never play too big a role in a woman's life."
  7. Flashback Photo: Miss Porter's School Finishes Socialites, Scholars and a First Lady, New England Historical Society on February 15, 2015
  8. Evgenia Peretz: The Code of Miss Porter's School, on July 2009
  9. Penelope Green: The Independent Women of Sweet Briar, The New York Times on April 23, 2015 - "[The 20th Century was] an era marked by conflicting cultures: one that was still defined by hostess houses, white gloves and the 'ring before spring' doctrine that cast women’s colleges as mere finishing schools, and one with a commitment to educating women for roles far from the home."
  10. Increased opportunities for women reduce need for single sex schools

External links

This article based on an article Finishing school (October 25, 2015) from the free Encyklopedia Wikipedia. The Wikipedia article is published under the dual license GNU-License for free Documentation and Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0). In Wikipedia is a List of Authors available those who worked on the text before being incorporated in WikiMANNia.