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Sarah Ellis

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Sarah Ellis

Sarah Stickney Ellis (1799–16 June 1872) was a Quaker turned Congregationalist who was the author of numerous books, mostly written about women's role(s) in society. She argued that it was the religious duty of women, as daughters, wives, and mothers, to provide the influence for good that would improve society.[1]

Particularly well-known are The Wives of England, The Women of England, The Mothers of England, and The Daughters of England, also her more directly educational works such as Rawdon House and Education of the Heart: Women's Best Work. Related to her principal literary theme of moral education for women, she established Rawdon House in Hertfordshire; a school for young ladies intended to apply the principles illustrated in her books to the "moral training, the formation of character, and in some degree the domestic duties of young ladies.",[2]

With few exceptions, boys and girls were educated separately in nineteenth century England, and the question of how to educate women was a subject of great debate. It was quite common for women, as well as men, to believe that they should not be educated in the full range of subjects, but should focus on domestic skills. Elizabeth Sandford wrote for women in support of this view, whilst others such as Susanna Corder ran a novel Quaker girl's school at Abney Park instituted by the philanthropist William Allen that dissented from convention by teaching all the latest sciences as early as the 1820s. In Education of the Heart: Women’s Best Work (1869) Sarah Ellis accepted the importance of intellectual education for women as well as training in domestic duties, but stressed that because women were the earliest educators of the men who predominantly ran and decided upon education in Victorian society, women primarily needed a system of education that developed sound moral character in their offspring.

In 1837, Sarah married the Rev. William Ellis, who held a prominent position in the London Missionary Society, and with whom she worked for the missionary cause and to promote their common interest in temperance. After thirty-five years of marriage they died within a week of each other. Of independent mind, she was buried in the countryside near their home, whilst her husband was laid to rest in the Congregationalists' non-denominational Abney Park Cemetery in the outskirts of Victorian London.

Selected works

  • Rawdon House
  • The Beautiful in Nature & Art
  • Northern Roses
  • Education of the Heart: Women's Best Work
  • The Wives of England
  • The Women of England
  • The Mothers of England
  • The Daughters of England
  • Knife'


  • Judith Flanders. Inside the Victorian Home: a Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004.

External links

  • The Online Books Page
  • Sons of the Soil - electronic transcription - Victorian Women's Writer's Project

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