digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















Not to be confused with The Governess.
The term Governess can also be applied to a female Governor.
In Rebecca Solomon's 1851 painting The Governess, the title figure (seated right, with her charge) exhibits the modest dress and deportment appropriate to her quasi-invisible role in the Victorian household.

A governess is a girl, lady, or woman employed to teach and train children in a private household. In contrast to a nanny (formerly called a nurse) or a babysitter, she concentrates on teaching children instead of meeting their physical needs. Her charges are of school age rather than babies.[1]

The position is rarer now, except within large and wealthy households such as those of the Saudi royal family[2] and in remote regions such as outback Australia.[3] It was common in well-off European families before World War I, especially in the countryside where no suitable school existed nearby. Parents' preference to educate their children at home—rather than send them away to boarding school for months at a time—varied across time and countries. Governesses were usually in charge of girls and younger boys. When a boy was old enough, he left his governess for a tutor or a school.

There has been a recent resurgence amongst families worldwide to employ governesses or full-time tutors. This has been for a number of reasons including personal security, the benefits of a tailored education, and the flexibility to travel or live in multiple locations.[4]


Modern governesses a slightly different role to their traditional counterparts. They are highly educated individuals who fill the role of both teacher and academic mentor for the children. They structure an education for their pupils which usually offers greater breadth and a higher standard than a school education can.[5]

Traditionally, governesses taught "The three Rs"[6] to young children. They also taught the "accomplishments" expected of middle class women to the young ladies under their care, such as French or another language, the piano or another musical instrument, and often painting (usually the more ladylike watercolours rather than oils) or poetry. It was also possible for other teachers (usually male) with specialist knowledge and skills to be brought in, such as, a drawing master or dancing master.

The governess occupied a uniquely awkward position in the Victorian household, because she was neither a servant nor yet a member of the host family. A governess had a middle-class background and education, yet was paid for her services. As a sign of this social limbo she frequently ate on her own, away from the rest of the family and servants. By definition, a governess was an unmarried woman who lived in someone else's home, which meant that she was subject to their rules. In any case, she had to comply with prevailing Victorian social standards which were rigid and unforgiving i.e. maintain an impeccable reputation by avoiding anything which could embarrass or offend her employers. If a particular governess was young and attractive, the lady of the house might well perceive a potential threat to her marriage, and enforce the governess' social exclusion more rigorously. As a result of these various restrictions, the lifestyle of the typical Victorian governess was often one of social isolation and loneliness, with few friends. The fact that her presence in the household was underpinned by an employment contract emphasised that she could never truly be part of the host family. However, being a governess was one of the few legitimate ways by which an unmarried middle class woman could support herself in Victorian society. Not surprisingly, her position was often depicted as one to be pitied, and the only way out of it was to get married. Unfortunately, it was difficult for a governess to find a suitable husband because most of the eligible men she encountered were her social superiors, who preferred a bride from within their own social class, particularly since such women generally had better financial resources. Once a governesses' charges grew up, she had to seek a new position, or, exceptionally, might be retained by the grown-up daughter as a paid companion.

In fiction[edit]

Several well-known works of fiction, particularly in the nineteenth century, have focused on governesses.[7]

In film[edit]

In TV[edit]

Notable governesses[edit]

The daughters of Alexander Graham Bell with their governess, c. 1885.

Other uses[edit]

The term "governess" also refers to a female politician who serves as governor, although it is now considered archaic, and has been replaced by "governor".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A Governess's Duties, Outback House (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
  2. ^ Ellis, Phyllis (2000). Desert Governess: An Inside View on the Saudi Arabian Royal Family. London: Eye Books. ISBN 1-903070-01-5. 
  3. ^ Harris, Julia: A career as a Governess? What skills do you need?, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 15 October 2004.
  4. ^ Telegraph.co.uk, The Telegraph, 15 March 2009.
  5. ^ British Tutors Worldwide
  6. ^ McDonald, James Joseph, and J. A. C. Chandler (1907). Life in Old Virginia; A Description of Virginia More Particularly the Tidewater Section, Narrating Many Incidents Relating to the Manners and Customs of Old Virginia so Fast Disappearing As a Result of the War between the States, Together with Many Humorous Stories. Norfold, Va: Old Virginia Pub. Co. p. 241. 
  7. ^ Lecaros, Cecilia Wadsö. The Victorian Governess Novel

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governess — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
11071 videos foundNext > 

Jonathan Rhys Meyers - The Governess

"The Governess" è un film del 1998 magistralmente interpretato da un giovanissimo Jonathan Rhys Meyers e da una superba Minnie Driver nel ruolo di Rosina. Qu...

The Governess Trailer

Drama / Opera prima de la directora Sandra Goldbacher que narra la historia de una joven judía que, tras perder a su padre y cambiarse de nombre, es contrata...

тнє gσνєяηєѕѕ - Part 1 of 12

Part 1 of 12 - When the father of privileged Sephardic Jewish Rosina da Silva dies, she decides to pass herself off as a gentile and finds employment with a ...

Ofra Haza - Rosina (The Governess)

Ofra Haza vocals come later in the song.

The Ice Governess attacks - Doctor Who - The Snowmen - BBC

The Ice Governess attacks the children in Clara's care. Lucky Punch is on hand to explode her with a sonic screwdriver. That's the way to do it! Subscribe he...

Sara Hershkowitz - Governess´s Aria - The Turn of the Screw - Benjamin Britten

Live recording from November 2011, 720p.

The Governess OST - 1. Mary Blackchurch (Feat. Ofra Haza)

Original soundtrack composed by: Eduard Shearmur, performed by Ofra Haza if you like the work Ofra did with the greatest music composers check out this page:...

The Good Doctor - "The Governess"

UIC Alumni present Neil Simon's "The Good Doctor" at the Moscow Theater Southwest in January 2006. "The Governess" was directed by Bill Raffeld , and feature...

Wanted: A Governess

The Royal Academy of Music's musical theatre students celebrate Charles Dickens in the Museum.

Lindsey & Barbara's Exciting Final Chase VS The Governess - The Chase

In a thrilling final chase, The Governess tries to catch our contestants, Lindsey and Barbara, as they attempt to walk away with a prize of £10000. Watch th...

11071 videos foundNext > 

172 news items

The Daily Telegraph
Mon, 01 Sep 2014 07:08:04 -0700

Gavin Gatenby, nephew to 'Aunt Dolly', said Ms Gatenby moved to Australia from New Zealand after World War I and spent some of her life working as a governess on an estate in Scotland. He remembers visiting the library and home of his aunt as a child ...


Sun, 31 Aug 2014 20:56:15 -0700

The last thing Ruairi expects is a beautiful English governess to appear on his doorstep. Lady Ravenna Walsingham is a seasoned spy who is sent to the savage Highlands to uncover a nefarious plot against the Crown. Playing the part of an English ...
Sun, 31 Aug 2014 21:30:00 -0700

She has never known hunger, and she is traveling from her boarding school in London to St. Petersburg with her great-aunt, her governess, and a butler. Furthermore, the private train is taking her to attend a ball being held by the Tsar to find a ...
Auburn Citizen
Sun, 31 Aug 2014 07:37:30 -0700

The couple married in 1824 and had five children, three boys and two girls, Fanny and Cornelia, who died in infancy. Fanny, by Kingsley's account, was precocious and well-cared for receiving her education at home from tutors and a governess, Miss Hance.
Charlotte Observer
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:30:00 -0700

Roles to be cast are one woman, age 18-30, to play the governess (needs strong acting range); and one male, age flexible, to play three roles: the female housekeeper, a 10-year-old boy and the children's uncle (needs to have strong acting range and ...
Auburn Citizen
Sat, 30 Aug 2014 16:48:45 -0700

The couple married in 1824 and had five children, three boys and two girls, Fanny and Cornelia, who died in infancy. Fanny, by Kingsley's account, was precocious and well-cared for receiving her education at home from tutors and a governess, Miss Hance.
Cape May County Herald (press release)
Sat, 30 Aug 2014 07:26:15 -0700

... Enjoy this vintage-radio style production complete with live sound effects and commercials, featuring two great detective stories — Sherlock Holmes' Adventure of the Copper Beeches about a governess in peril, and Nick Carter and the Strange Dr ...

Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald
Sat, 30 Aug 2014 07:14:30 -0700

But this summer the SCG hopes there will be little confusion on what is appropriate, as they launch an official dress code "lookbook" put together by the governess of fashion: Vogue. SCG Trustee Katie Page said the lookbook aimed to freshen the ...

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Talk About Governess

You can talk about Governess with people all over the world in our discussions.

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!