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Finishing school

finishing school, finishing school for girls
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 society123 The name reflects that it follows on from ordinary school and is intended to complete the education, with classes primarily on deportment and etiquette, 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 time4 At their peak, thousands of wealthy young women were sent to the dozens of finishing schools available5 A primary goal was to teach students to acquire husbands5

The 1960s marked the decline of the finishing school5 This can be attributed to the shifting conceptions of women's role in society, as well as succession issues within the typically family-run schools and sometimes commercial pressures driven by the high value of the properties the schools occupied5 The 1990s saw a revival of the finishing school, although the business model has been radically altered5


  • 1 By country
    • 11 Switzerland
      • 111 Notable examples
    • 12 United States
  • 2 References
  • 3 External links

By countryedit


Switzerland was known for its private finishing schools Most resided in the French-speaking cantons near Lake Geneva5 The country was favoured because of its reputation as a healthful environment, its multilinguality and cosmopolitan aura and the region's political stability5

Notable examplesedit

The finishing schools that made Switzerland renownedcitation needed for such institutions were Brilliantmont, founded in 1882, now an international secondary school, and Château Mont-Choisi, founded in 1885, which closed in 1995 or 1996 Both were in Lausanne

  • The Maharani of Jaipur studied at Brillantmont In her memoir, she claimed the time to be a happy one, in which she wrote letters to her later husband and pursued skiing and other sports6 Actress Gene Tierney also attended Brillantmont, speaking only French and holidaying with fellow students in Norway and England7
  • Château Mont-Choisi de was attended by Carla Bruni-Sarkozy,8 as well as Princess Elena of Romania, Monique Lhuillier, actress Kitty Carlisle, Saudi scholar Mai Yamani and New York socialite Fabiola Beracasa-Beckman
  • Institut Alpin Videmanette in Rougemont was attended by Diana, Princess of Wales, Tiggy Legge-Bourke and Tamara Mellon Diana was sent to Alpin Videmanette by her father after failing all her O-Levels She had met the Prince of Wales that year9
  • Mon Fertile, in Tolochenaz, educated Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall 10 and Ingrid Detter de Lupis Frankopan
  • Queen Anne-Marie of Greece attended Institut Le Mesnil
  • Institut Château Beau-Cedre was in Clarens and closed in 2002 Queen Elizabeth briefly entertained the thought of sending Princess Anne to Château Beau-Cedre, but elected not to
  • Vieux Chalet in Château-d'Œx was a finishing school run by the parents of the current owner
  • Le Manoir, in Lausanne, educated British spy Vera Atkins and a sister of the first King of the Albanians It had a private beach and students were taken skiing in St Moritz1112
  • The last remaining traditional Swiss finishing school is Institut Villa Pierrefeu, in Glion, which was founded in 195413

United Statesedit

See also: Women's college

Through much of their history, United States finishing schools emphasized the social graces and de-emphasized scholarship: society encouraged a polished young lady to hide her intellectual prowess for fear of frightening away suitors14 For instance, Miss Porter's School 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 Hamilton15

Today, with a new cultural climate and a different attitude to the role of women, the situation has reversed: Miss Porter's School downplays its origins as a finishing school, and emphasizes the rigor of its academics16 Likewise, Finch College on Manhattan's Upper East Side was "one of the most famed of US girls' finishing schools", but its last President chose to describe it as a liberal arts college, offering academics as rigorous as Barnard or Bryn Mawr1718

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, that were once known for preparing their female students for marriage19 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 generations20


  1. ^ Joan Perkin January 1, 1995 Victorian Women New York University Press pp 27–28 ISBN 978-0-8147-6625-5 
  2. ^ "finishing school" Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia TheFreeDictionarycom Retrieved 2009-05-04 
  3. ^ "finishing school" Online Dictionary Merriam-Webster Retrieved 2009-05-04 
  4. ^ Donald, Graeme 2009 Lies, Damned Lies and History: a Catalogue of Historical Errors and Misunderstandings Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History Press p 48 Retrieved May 22, 2015 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Simonian, Haig "Charm academy: Switzerland's last finishing school" Financial Times Pearson 
  6. ^ Gayatri, Her Highness Maharani Gayatri Devi, Rajmata of Jaipur; Rama Rau, Santha 1976 A Princess Remembers: the Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur New Delhi: Rupa & Co Retrieved May 22, 2015 
  7. ^ "Gene Tierney" TCM Time Warner Retrieved May 21, 2015 
  8. ^ Vogel-Misicka, Susan July 30, 2011 "Foreign families trust Swiss boarding schools" Swissinfoch Swiss Broadcasting Corporation Retrieved May 25, 2015 
  9. ^ "Princess Diana Biography" Bio A&E Networks Retrieved May 22, 2015 
  10. ^ "Childhood and Education" Retrieved 13 October 2017  attended Mon Fertile school in Switzerland 
  11. ^ Helm, Sarah June 4, 2009 A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE Hachette UK Retrieved May 27, 2015 
  12. ^ Pinçon, Michel; Pinõcon-Charlot, Monique 1999 Grand Fortunes: Dynasties of Wealth in France New York: Algora Publishing p 85 Retrieved May 27, 2015 
  13. ^ Adams, William Lee October 31, 2011 "Mind Your Manners: The Secrets of Switzerland's Last Traditional Finishing School" Time Magazine Retrieved May 21, 2015 
  14. ^ In 1900 the President of Stamford University, David Starr Jordan, asserted "a college education did not, by itself, disqualify a woman for matrimony”Richard Norton Smith 1997 The Colonel, The Life and Legend of Robert R McCormick Houghton Mifflin Co p 72 ISBN 0-395-53379-1 ; see also Burlington Howard Ball 1996 Hugo L Black : Cold Steel Warrior Oxford University Press, USA pp 20– ISBN 978-0-19-536018-9  "Hugo Black was a traditional southern, sexist male who believedthat 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 motherHe 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"
  15. ^ "Flashback Photo: Miss Porter's School Finishes Socialites, Scholars and a First Lady" New England Historical Society February 15, 2015 Retrieved March 31, 2015 
  16. ^ Evgenia Peretz July 2009 "The Code of Miss Porter's School" Vanityfaircom Retrieved April 23, 2015 
  17. ^ "Finch & Current Events" Time Magazine 30 March 1942  |access-date= requires |url= helpdescribing Finch as a finishing school
  18. ^ Arenson, Karen W January 26, 1997 "Rodney O Felder Dies at 69; Finch College's Last President" New York Times Retrieved March 1, 2014 Finch was founded in 1900 as a two-year finishing school for women Dr Felder and others at the school maintained, however, that it had become as academically demanding as Barnard, Bryn Mawr and other colleges 
  19. ^ Penelope Green April 23, 2015 "The Independent Women of Sweet Briar" The New York Times Retrieved 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 
  20. ^ Increased opportunities for women reduce need for single sex schools
    • Christina Mazza March 4, 2015 "Sweet Briar College to close: Are women's colleges still relevant" Christian Science Monitor Retrieved March 16, 2015 
    • Darlene Superville June 1, 2001 "US Women's Colleges Hit Hard" Bangor Daily News Retrieved March 16, 2015 

External linksedit

  • Institut Villa Pierrefeu

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