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Exploring the online new exhibition of the Garden Ring Museum. Alla Buga, curator of the exhibition and deputy director of the museum, talks about Moscow women’s institutes and gymnasiums.

The School of the Past exhibition has opened in the Garden Ring Museum. Its main exhibit was a photograph of Baroness von Fitinghof, one of the graduates of the Catherine Institute for Noble Maidens in 1901. The photograph, as well as a copy of the Baroness’s certificate, was presented to the museum by her granddaughter. These items became the first exhibits of an exhibition dedicated to women’s pre-revolutionary education in Russia, in particular, gymnasiums, institutes, and higher courses.

For noble maidens

In Moscow in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were several closed-type institutions for girls. Among the most famous were Catherine’s (for girls of the upper classes, he is the oldest – was formed in 1802) and Alexandrovsky (for pupils from merchant, bourgeois families). In 1825, another school was opened – the Elizabethan Institute, focused on girls of non-noble origin. In it, additional hours were set aside for needlework: the girls embroidered and knitted, and the institute then sold their work. The money received was given to the pupils at the end of the institute, from which the allowance was formed – the initial amount with which they left the walls of the institution.

Women’s institutions were originally created to help girls from impoverished families. Studying gave the pupil the opportunity to earn a living by her labor. After graduating from the institute, one could become a teacher, governess, or earn money with needlework. For some of the pupils the state paid, others were boarders – relatives, various societies, benefactors paid for them. Baroness Nadezhda von Fitinghof was a boarder of Count Sheremetev – why he took up the payment of her education, one cannot say for sure. Perhaps he was a friend of her father: Arthur Aleksandrovich von Fitinghof was considered one of the most worthy representatives of the nobility, was granted the rank of lieutenant colonel, and also received the Order of St. Stanislav of the second degree. In the year of his daughter’s birth, he was among the troops assembled in Moscow on the occasion of the coronation of Emperor Alexander III. However, his success could not save the family from gradual ruin. After graduating from college, Nadezhda entered the telegraph office on Myasnitskaya Street, where she worked for 43 years.

Gradually, girls from wealthy families began to be admitted to institutions. By the end of the 19th century, it became prestigious to have an education for women and the popularity of institutions increased dramatically.

Secular manners and mathematics: education in grammar schools

Gymnasiums began to develop in Russia in the 1860s. They differed from the institutes in that the girls did not live in these institutions, but only attended classes. After graduation, many graduates opened their own private gymnasiums and boarding schools.

By 1917, there were about 60 gymnasiums in Moscow, both state and private. Some belonged to the Department of Institutions of the Empress Maria, others were subordinate to the Ministry of Public Education. Both instances determined the order of work of the gymnasiums, for example, they approved the list of books by which the girls studied. The program was the same for all gymnasiums: Russian, mathematics, history and literature (general and domestic), physics, geography, God’s law and much more.

Also, girls – not necessarily of noble origin – were taught secular manners, dance, music. For an additional fee, the student could take a foreign language course or choose a specific subject. A separate time was set aside for light gymnastic exercises to keep the pupils in good physical shape.

At the exhibition you can see the certificate of some students, including the peasant Vera Galtsova, who graduated from the First Moscow Women’s Gymnasium in 1909, and her graduation album. Here are photos of other girls. The pictures are a very important part of the exposure. From old photographs, not only schoolgirls look, they can be seen the interior interiors of educational institutions: bedrooms, management offices, dining rooms, corridors.

Other exhibits included an educational game “Gather Europe” (the pupils were asked to assemble a cardboard puzzle with a map of Europe), inkpots, pens, a set for needlework, a hoop, a blotting paper device – a press blotter. You can see what the classroom lady’s outfit looked like: it was recreated by reenactors from the preserved patterns.

One of the most interesting exhibits is the colorful textbook “Rooster and hen, their structure and internal organs in pictures.” It allowed the students not only to learn how birds are arranged, but also to trace how the development of the chick in the egg takes place until the very birth.

Strict morals, angel day and the German language

In general, all the gymnasiums were similar to each other both in the quality of teaching and in internal procedures, but there were also exceptions – for example, the Peter and Paul women’s gymnasium at the Lutheran Church of Saints Peter and Paul. A three-storey red brick building was built in Kolpachny Lane in 1892 not far from the church itself; it has survived to this day. Basic subjects were taught only in German. The institution consisted of two departments: an elementary four-year (preparatory) school and a seven-year second department – the gymnasium itself. There was also an additional eighth grade – pedagogical. Its graduates were employed as nannies, home teachers, and classy ladies. Education was paid – from 110 to 175 rubles per year. The money is big, considering that the average monthly salary in Russia was then about 20 rubles. The orphaned daughters of the parishioners of the Lutheran Church studied for free.

The second women’s gymnasium (it was located in the Basmanny district) was distinguished by the fact that it was in it that the management of all state gymnasiums was located. She also had one of the largest libraries with over 900 titles. Pupils were taught several foreign languages ​​at once and they did not take additional payment for this, unlike other gymnasiums. A charitable society was also created, which collected money for the education of those girls whose families could not pay on their own.

One of the best in Moscow was V.N. von Dervies. Its founder was the wife of a famous businessman, railway builder and philanthropist Pavel von Derviz. The idea to create an educational institution for orphan girls came to Vera Nikolaevna after the death of her daughter Varvara in 1881. She even set up a boarding school at the gymnasium where girls could live – this was very rare. At first, the gymnasium was located on Staraya Basmannaya Street, and then Vera Nikolaevna bought the mansion in Gorokhovsky Lane. At the same time, 270 girls could be accommodated in this house. In memory of her daughter, Vera von Derviz called all the students Varenki, and also once a year she spent the day of the angel: a prayer service was arranged, then dinner and an evening ball, to which young men from the cadet corps were allowed to see the girls. By the way, the graduates of this institution were girls from the merchant families of the Morozovs, Filippovs and Kuznetsovs. Marina Tsvetaeva also studied here for a short time – she was expelled for her willfulness.

But, perhaps, the gymnasium of Maria Kalaydovich, located on Sadovaya-Samotechnaya street, was famous for the most strict morals. The director of the institution carried out a number of renovations in the building, for example, adding a third floor to make more classrooms. The girls were forbidden to go to masquerades and other entertainment events, and attending court sessions was also prohibited. Kalaydovich believed that the main thing in the pupils is modesty. Therefore, at teachers’ councils, they discussed not only their academic performance, but also their moral character. For unworthy behavior, they could be expelled. The gymnasium consisted of preparatory, basic seven-grade and additional (eighth) departments. The latter trained future teachers.

After the revolution, all gymnasiums were abolished. On their basis, other educational institutions were most often created. For example, in the building of the gymnasium of Maria Kalaydovich, a school for working youth was opened in 1917, then courses for the training of kindergarten teachers. In 1925, a pedagogical technical school was opened in the building, which later became a preschool pedagogical school that existed until the 1990s. Today the building houses the preschool education department and administrative divisions of the Moscow City Pedagogical University.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Moscow’s higher courses for women were opened – something like universities. To begin studies, it was necessary to present permission from a husband, father, or other older male relative. At the higher courses, they taught jurisprudence, stenography, and advocacy. Although, of course, there was no question of competition in these professions with men at that time.

Earlier, in the 1860s, women were allowed to be volunteers in male educational institutions. The volunteers were not given any papers or certificates – they attended lectures only for the sake of general development.

Moscow Women’s Medical Institute

In 1909, Pavel Statkevich, a professor at the Imperial Moscow University, founded the private Moscow Women’s Medical Institute. It was considered one of the faculties of Moscow University. The girls studied feldsher-obstetrics, massage, medical gymnastics, dentistry, and then they could get a job as doctors. The study took five years and was paid – 200 rubles a year.

The medical institute was quite in demand: by 1917, 1,650 girls were studying there. After the revolution, which made higher education accessible to both boys and girls, the Moscow Women’s Medical Institute, like other women’s higher educational institutions, was abolished.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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