Every writer’s work is fueled by their passions. One of mine is educational opportunity for women. Historically it didn’t exist. I’ve written extensively on the subject in this blog in the past.**
I had the good fortune to attend an excellent girls’ high school and wonderful women’s college, both of which pushed excellence and valued quality teaching. When I realized others—even in our own time—lack access to school at all I was horrified.
Today I thought I would post some excerpts from Dangerous Works related to the heroine’s frustration in regard to education. She lives near the great university in Cambridge, but she is not only excluded from seeking a degree, but also from the resources including the library. (The thought of being locked out of a library made my stomach turn!). Self-educated, she struggles to translate poems from the Greek without sufficient classical education to give the poems context. The poems, by the way, are all written by women.
In this scene, she tries to get input from horrified servants:
“Perhaps…that is,” Eunice stammered on. “Perhaps your little poem needs the attention of a scholar.”
Georgiana glared and watched the color drain from Eunice’s face. She knew that Eunice meant the attention of a man. Eunice ducked her head and applied herself to her endless needlework., , ,
“My lady?” [the butler] stopped at the door and stared at the wall behind Georgiana’s left shoulder.
“I wish to show you something. You had schooling, didn’t you? You have some Greek?”
“Greek, my lady?” he said through tight lips. “Of very little use in my current position, I fear, but yes. I studied as a schoolboy.”
Local vicar no doubt. Even a boy destined for service got that much—more than any girl, even a Duke’s daughter, she thought bitterly.
“Very well,” she said holding up a piece of parchment. “Take a look.”
He hesitated, eyes fixed on the wall.
“Come, come, man. It won’t bite.”
She actually tried to seek assistance from the professionals around her, only to become a laughing stock as the hero discovers when he returns to his boyhood home after Waterloo. It becomes clear that he risks his own career if he stoops to tutoring a mere woman:
“Do be careful, Mallet,” Murchison growled. “The entire town knows that this one doesn’t know her place. She approached Lawrence Watterson. ‘For assistance in translation,’ she said! She may be a duke’s daughter, but she can’t approach a University Fellow unpunished. Watterson dined out on that story for a month.”
Harrison snickered. “Of course, gentlemen wouldn’t want all women banned from the lanes of Cambridge.”
“Gentlemen wouldn’t accost a lady on a public street. You two are barely men.” Fire burned deep in Andrew’s black eyes.
A look of fear flashed across Murchison’s face, quickly replaced by resentment and cunning.
“You wouldn’t want your reputation tarnished by such a relationship, Mallet,” he whined. “People respected your father. You wouldn’t want to give them the wrong idea about the son. Not if you wish to be a part of things in Cambridge.”
A little Greek is one thing; the art of love is another. Only one man ever tried to teach Lady Georgiana Hayden both. Wealthy, titled, but crushingly lonely, she craves knowledge for the only thing she values more than her independence, work that gives voice to the neglected women poets of ancient Greece–especially their love poems. If it takes a scandalous affair to teach Georgiana what she needs to translate poems rich with layers of meaning and full of sensual traps, she will risk it. If the man in question chooses not to help her, she will use any means at her disposal to change his mind.
Major Andrew Holden returns to Cambridge a battle scarred hero. Some scars cut deeper than others. He loved Georgiana once and suffered swift retribution from her powerful family that would not tolerate a commoner who dared court their daughter. They cost him eleven years of his life. Determined to avoid the Haydens, he seeks the kind of work that will heal his soul and make his scholar father proud. Georgiana can offer him work, but he knows tutoring an amateur will cost him the respect of Cambridge’s prigs and clerics. Can he protect himself from a woman who almost destroyed him? Does he want to?
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