Don’t hide your brains in your handbag….

You’ll have to bear with me as I’m going to be floundering around for ’the right words’ to express myself this morning….

During those recent really really hot humid days as well as doing a bit of reading I passed some of the time binge watching on iview or the other catch up tv channels – different series and films I missed, plus docos I probably wasn’t interested at the original screening time.

Some like – Sanditon – My Brilliant Career – – Daughter of the Hunter Valley – were set in a time when young females were expected to be ladies who were ‘going to get married’…….not supposed to have opinions on anything, definitely not show any signs of ‘being brainy’.

In each of those the main female character had ‘suitors’.(known or ‘would like to be’) turns down marriage and definitely does the other.

  • Charlotte impresses with knowledge of house design
  • Sybylla wants to and does write a novel
  • Madeleine takes charge of and runs a huge property

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Back in the 1950s I went to an all girls school known as The County High School for Girls.(also known by other names over the years) …….oh yes top marks were expected, but we also had a Head Mistress who would remind us ‘we were the ladies of tomorrow so please act accordingly’ . Teenagers – trying to be ladies with all the nuances of that (respectful polite having certain standards do the right thing) yet strive for the best. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

Photo found online recently

I might not have been the best at whatever but the ‘being a lady’ lessons seem to have always been hiding unconsciously at the back of my mind – there have been times when I’ve looked back over situations and wondered what Miss Townsend would have thought of my behaviour.

What brought all this to mind was being told of the death (yes another one) of someone I knew a long time ago who in the 1990s taught in a high school on the other side of the city here in Melbourne. She used to despair over some of her 15yr old students……”all they think about is boys babies and marriage!”

“Many of them have good brains and with encouragement will go far, so I keep telling them……You’re not just a pretty face – Don’t hide your brains in your handbags”

I wonder what impression those words made on the girls back then – do any of the now 45yr olds remember them and did they act on them?

What about you….Are there any little encouraging snippets or asides you remember from those important school years?

~ ~ ~ ~ Life this Week can be found HERE ~ ~ ~


15 thoughts on “Don’t hide your brains in your handbag….

  1. I had no interest in boys while in high school or even much in college. Oh, there were a few fellas I dated, but none I would have married. Heck, even upon meeting Terry I told him right off the bat that I was not the least bit interested in getting married. Nor was he, it turned out, so we just went along doing fun things and found ourselves in love months later. He always valued my “smarts” and at one point I think his mother even told him I was too smart for him.

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    1. I think we all matured at a time right for us…..the 15yr old girls my friend taught were from, what might these days be called an impoverished background- only coming to school because they had to, seeing early marriage as the way to happiness.
      It hurt my friend to see the ‘brainy’ ones thinking there was no way out of the rut so she tried to encourage them in whatever way she could.

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  2. I love that expression ‘don’t hide your brains in your handbag’ so apt. I had mixed messages growing up (maybe that is why I’m mixed up now LOL 🙂 ). I went to North Sydney Girls’ High School which was an academic school. We were taught to be ladies but many of the girls went on to be leaders in their field of study. At home, I was told ‘why do you want to go to Uni when you will only be getting married and having children’. I loved my parents dearly but they really didn’t understand that there was more to life and that girls did have ‘brains’. I’ve been reading Charlotte Bronte with my bookclub and she was definitely a feminist before her time. Thanks for your post which I read through #lifethisweek

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  3. I was the eldest and have two brothers. I had very encouraging teachers who wanted me to go to uni (I wanted to be a teacher librarian). My mother made it clear that my parents would not be “wasting” money on a tertiary education for me as I would only get married and have kids and they had to make sure my brothers were properly educated. I did marry early but didn’t have kids til I was in my late 20s. I finally got to go to uni in my 40s and studied nursing. Still wish I’d followed the original dream.

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  4. I’ve never heard the saying any more. I don’t think I really felt the gender divide much when I was at school because it was the norm back in the 1970s. I remember though – by the early to mid 1980s being surprised when a girl in my older brother’s grade wasn’t allowed to go away to University because she was expected to marry and have a family etc. Particularly when she was one of the smarter kids.

    My parents were pretty traditional but neither had any schooling past 14yrs of age. They were fine with the idea of my brother and I being educated though… particularly me given I wasn’t particularly amazingly intelligent etc, but they happily sent me off to University when I finished school even though the cost would have been debilitating for them. (We had to live on campus as we were from regional Qld. No fees for Uni in the 80s but residential college….)

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  5. certainly no encouragement in my teen years – but love the “don’t hide your brains in your handbag” – but then again I was pushed out of home when I was still teenager and sent (flew away) to live with my sister and her family because of circumstances I wasn’t expecting but didn’t actually mind as it turned out….

    Until I left for UK, Mother sent me a type of business school for ladies in the city …where I learned to touch type with bibs and a manual typewriter, apparently I was okay at shorthand but it was bookkeeping I shone at…

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  6. I love that saying, it’s fantastic. When I was about 16, our English teacher said “This will sound funny to you, but I still feel the same as you do now” It’s really stuck with me as I age, when people reflect how old they think I am (and I’ve been thinking we’re not so different). It’s a sad truth!

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  7. What an interesting statement. I’ve never heard it before. Thank you for sharing it. I had a teacher who gave me a different kind of advice – but it was in the form of a question rather than a statement. I was driven to get good grades and he knew it. But one day he asked me to stay after class and he simply asked me what I would do “if I ever got an A- rather than an A.” I have never forgotten it. It didn’t teach me to slack. That wasn’t his point. His point was to be kind to myself when I made mistakes because humans do that. I liked that very much. I like it even more as I have grown older. Thank you for your post!

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  8. Love the reminiscing here Cathy. I admit I went to an all girls public high school and the first “headmistress” was of English descent and wanted “us” to be “like the private school gels” we think. We were in a beach side suburb of Sydney,…we were a mix of those interested in learning, those interested in the boys’ school down the road and those who missed going to the beach. I had a father I am very grateful for who encouraged me to get full school education and training as a teacher. I am always glad I finally woke up to myself and did some study in Yr 12 to get a teachers scholarship. Thank you for sharing your post for Life This Week. I enjoy seeing your blog’s post pop up in the link up. Warm wishes, Denyse.

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  9. I think the headmistress I had Miss Allen must have been related to your head, they look the same. No I don’t recall any pearls of wisdom from her, except for getting cross if you walked on the grass. My Mum was the one who encouraged me for further education, believing I should have a career to fall back on.

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