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Works by Antonina de Gerando

Antonina de Gerando was the first headmistress of Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvár) girls’ school. She not only did much for the education of her students in practical terms, but there are valuable lessons to learn still today from her books. She rejected old fashioned pedagogical principles and recognized the necessity of providing girls with an all-round education. She reckoned that science would never ‘endanger’ women, although being ‘semi-educated’ could cause problems. This is why she urged the creation of a curriculum for Hungarian girls’ schools in accordance with national criteria. Her works have lessons even for people today, which is why we have pulled together summaries of just a few of her diverse oeuvre.

Women’s Studies, or the Science of a Lady’s Vocation (1880)
Antonina de Gerando’s creed was that teaching is the greatest art on earth, the objective of which is to educate girls to think. In her work Women’s Studies (Nőtan), which she wrote for her students, she goes into enormous detail and expresses in plain language exactly what duties await a woman as child, wife, mother, head of the household and in society as an employee. Over 12 chapters, the book lays out the most important characteristics of a woman’s life, and provides the reader with useful advice.

Domestic Science (1883)
Her other work, Domestic Science (Háztartástan), which her students also used as a textbook, is extremely interesting and pertinent on this subject. It is divided into five chapters and provides a complete picture of bourgeois life of the period. The first part examines housekeeping, including the care and cleanliness of the house and surroundings, the order of meals, keeping domesticated animals and looking after the garden. Later chapters also cover topics that were not even taught in boys’ schools at the time, for instance, the basic principles of economics, international and civil rights and a brief introduction to social sciences.

Educational Science (1881)
Antonina de Gerando held the view that girls should also be given an all-round training and the opportunity to study all subjects. In her work Educational Science (Neveléstan) published in Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvár) in 1881, she attempts to clarify extremely abstract concepts of the science of education. Contrary to the one-sided German pedagogical model, she preferred the French system. In the volume she tries to present information primarily for mothers and adolescent girls, and by doing this positioning the matter of education at the forefront of attention.
On French Senior Girls’ Schools (1885)
With regard to raising girls, Antonina frequently cited the example of France, and one of her works is dedicated entirely to this matter. On French Senior Girls’ Schools (Franczia felsőbb leányiskolákról) compares and contrasts French and Hungarian methods of education. In her work she represents the viewpoint that young girls have exactly the same right to learning as boys. It is her opinion that in order for youth to receive a good education, the most important single factor is to train cultured mothers. “Whosoever holds the education of women in their hand holds the sentiment of the future generation.” (Antonina de Gerando: On French Senior Girls’ Schools, 1885)
Music Theory and the School of Singing (1885)
She wrote the textbook Music Theory and the School of Singing (Zene-elmélet és ének-iskola) in Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvár) in 1884, but it was published in Budapest. The work basically presents the innovative music theory technique of Joseph-Maurice Chevé, who is seen as the forerunner of Zoltán Kodály. Antonina employed the French method for seven years and she experienced that this technique was a great opportunity to develop the musical skills of students. Of particular interest is that composer Ferenc (Franz) Liszt wrote a recommendation for the 100-page textbook.

The Latest Educational Reforms in France (1890)
Love is the sole creative force, Antonina wrote on several occasions. This book also reveals this thought process. She endeavours to direct attention to the problem apparent in the area of discipline. She says that what is missing from schools is love and that colleges generally only deal with teaching. In her volume The Latest Educational Reforms in France (A legújabb nevelési reformok Francziaországban) she outlines the school educational reforms instituted by the French École Alsacienne és École Monge, drawing attention to the importance of physical education and gentleness. The following quotation suggests this: “In each class there are never more than 25-30 pupils. At this level it is possible to put into effect the school’s motto: gentleness, love, trust, vigour.” (Antonina de Gerando: The Latest Educational Reforms in France, 1890)
How "Hungary will be?" (1894)
In How “Hungary will be?" (Hogyan “lesz Magyarország?”) Antonina shows that development is an unavoidable principle of the world, and if a people are unable to keep pace with development, they will be lost forever. At the same time she warns that we do not want to copy the modern countries completely, our homeland should retain its essential characteristics yet not fear change. It is her view that if we can shape the characteristics of individuals in the desired direction, then society as a whole will change.

It is well worth noting the name of Antonina de Gernado, it is valuable looking through her works, considering her suggestions and advice, since she was a woman who was able to be herself amidst all circumstances, and she used all her energy in an effort to improve girls’ education at the end of the 19th century.


Dr. Katalin Kéri Ambrus Attiláné – Antonina de Gerando – On the Pathways of Modern Education (A modern nevelés útjain – De Gerando Antonina) (1996)