In her book Faith and Betrayal: A Pioneer Woman’s Passage in the American West Sally Denton provides us with a glimpse into raising children in upper-crust London in the mid 1800’s. Jean Rio Baker is married to Henry Baker, and they have eight young children, less the one who has died as a toddler. Jean Rio later forsakes this life in the pursuit of Mormonism in America:

“Child rearing was left to governesses, and the children were taught what one of them called ‘the pure Queen’s English’ by private tutors, [while] Jean Rio pursued her musical career throughout Europe. A cook and butler handled domestic matters, and Jean Rio and Henry took their meals separate from the children. The family regularly attended public celebrations for Queen Victoria, and, to judge from their proximity to the royal family at these times, the Bakers were apparently among the elite of mid-nineteenth-century London society.

“Henry, a prominent engineer, built a miniature steam locomotive for his children. The couple routinely read Shakespeare aloud to their children from a leather-bound volume of the complete works a book Jean Rio would eventually carry with her to Utah, along with many others. ‘They were taught personal cleanliness, morals, manners, and religion in no uncertain terms,’ wrote a descendant. As each child turned fourteen, he or she was invited to the family dinner table, having received training in etiquette. At that age, the sons were presented with a silver watch and chain. By that age as well, the children were expected to have mastered the common requirements in history and literature, as well as bookkeeping and higher mathematics that included algebra. Upon turning sixteen, the boys received a gold watch and, as son William George remembered the symbolic rite, were told by Jean Rio and Henry that they would now be expected to conduct themselves as proper gentlemen at all times. All the children learned horsemanship and regularly rode the bridle path in Hyde Park; it was a proficiency that would serve them well in their future lives on the American frontier.”

Sally Denton, Faith and Betrayal: A Pioneer Woman’s Passage in the American West (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 134. (HT: Delancey Place)

Oh how times have changed!

Advertisements